Xorus (prime)/Scholarship/Forbidden Knowledge and the Black Arts: Volume II - Maleficarum and Dark Magic (essay)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: Forbidden Knowledge and the Black Arts: Volume II - Maleficarum and Dark Magic

Author: Xorus

Please note the disclaimer at the bottom of this page on how to use this unofficial document. There is a highlight key for emphasizing references as 100% made up and not canon.

This is a three volume work:

Forbidden Knowledge and the Black Arts

Through my long years of study and field work as an occult archaeologist, I have had much occasion to treat with the dangerous factions and malign forces of this world. There are many black arts and traditions of forbidden knowledge that are ill-known in the more civilized realms of this continent. What follows here is a brief survey in three volumes. It establishes the ways of dark magic in their historical provenance and ancestral propensities, attempting to set these matters into a modicrum of order. It is the bias of this work to frame the evolution of dark sorcery in thaumaturgical and rationalist terms. There may be points which are most reflective of my own opinion, and its iconoclasm will find ways of displeasing even the Faendryl.

The indigenous cultures and dark cults of the lawless regions of Jontara, who engage in what we will call the "black arts," would not characterize their own practices in this way. For this I will defer to ethnographers and religious historians. In this compendium the unifying focus is necromancy in a very broad sense. Various categories and conventions are introduced to make a semblance of coherence from these sinister traditions. It is written with some bias toward more recent history, in its illustrations, to aid in relevancy and practical context.

Lord Xorus Kul'shin
Vice Chancellor Emeritus
Hazalred Thaumaturgical Insitute
30 Koaratos, 5122 Modern Era

Volume II: Maleficarum and Dark Magic

Necromancy in its modern form is the dark art of life forces. Whether of spirits, or destructive, warping effects on the body. High among these arts is the necromancy of undeath. However, while the term is often narrower than its oldest definition of "death magic," it is not solely concerned with the undead. There are even holy powers over the undead, such as those of the Order of Voln, that if executed instead with sorcery would be considered necromancy. The dark arts of sorcery in the present age are built on the foundation of necromancy and demonology. In truth these are generalizations of the older division of animate and inanimate matter. Demonology is concerned with inanimate matter, gateways, and analogs of elements in other worlds.

These are phenomenological conventions rather than essential or causal categories. There is such a thing as demonic necromancy, and necromancy with demons. There is even a cosmological case to be made that the actual, true "unlife" of cursed souls is ultimately demonic in nature and origins. There is a deep relationship between certain kinds of demons and the undead. The core of this is their corruption by more chaotic forms of essence from other existences. If a soul is utterly transformed, inherent of dark power, it is not even tainted. It is the demonic.

V. Death

Life consists of two things, the body and the soul. Without a soul to animate it, a living body has no consciousness, and will eventually fail. Whatever is animate with a physical form is imbued with a soul. There are spirits in animals and plants. Artificial constructs, if autonomous, contain an animating spirit. Whether a "soul" is something distinct from the "spirits" of lower forms of life, or souls may be reincarnated into other forms, is a question for religion and theology. While the body is unable to sustain consciousness without its soul, the soul will be unable to keep memory and identity without its body. With the exception of pure spirits, which are shaped by external influences, souls retain little personality or awareness.

For this reason the afterlife is often known as Oblivion. Souls in this realm float forever in a limbo of oblivion, which is a state of unconsciousness and unawareness. What will ultimately become of them is not known. Those souls who briefly return from the dead have little or no memory of Oblivion, and temporarily regain their worldly memories as if they were not dead. Those spirits that remain in this world may keep their mortal minds for many years. But this will eventually decay, without their living body. Even in the greater undead such as the liches.

V.A Death and Dying

When the body is critically wounded or otherwise failing, or it has taken such traumatic shock that it shuts down, this mortal injury stops the heart and the unconscious body enters a state known as "dying." The soul is still bound as its body is dying. Sometimes it is able to speak. Without having the soul "kept" to the body, this state of affairs will only last for minutes. The disembodied awareness of the dead body will feel itself floating and looking down at itself. Sounds will fade away, and everything darkens. This darkness becomes a dark tunnel, with a bright light ahead. Sometimes people speak of hearing familiar voices or reliving their old memories. There is a blinding light. The world then fades in a grainy montage of colors.

The soul is bound to the body with a spiritual confound. Necromancers refer to this tether or vessel as the "animus," and there are powers of dark sorcery for siphoning it. It is impossible for a severed animus to be replaced by any known power other than Lorminstra. When the soul departs from the body, it has entered the state known as "death." There are only two possible recourses for death. Resurrection with the return of the soul, or "undeath," such as a cursed soul reanimating the body. Though not necessarily the same soul that was in it originally.

When left in the dying or death states, there is damage to the body, which gradually worsens. This is one of the causes of "Death's sting." It might leave the once again living body with a degree of impairment, or some loss of memory or experiences. Much of this damage is from lack of breathing for an extended period. But there is also a more spiritual trauma in death that does not reduce entirely to physical conditions. There are spells of "preservation" which halt corporeal deterioration. More powerful consecrations of preservation exist, called "chrisms," which will help prevent such losses. There are even special potions which will retroactively ameliorate the impact of death. The more decayed by death, the harsher the recovery. It is very rare for a "true resurrection" to happen through a lifegiving ritual. Such is only possible by a holy priest beseeching Lorminstra to return a departed soul into its dead body. There are some ways to prevent this kind of resurrection. There are spells or poisonous herbs which make the body incapable of hosting the soul. The most familiar kind is Luukosian deathwort.

There are only special circumstances where the dead return, where the death was premature and insignificant. True resurrections often require long recoveries. Most "raisings" are only the revival of dying bodies, which is within the power of any of the gods. The longer the body has been dead, the less likely it is that a true resurrection will be granted. Beyond a point the body will be too decayed to be viable for hosting the soul within it. There is rarely a special case where the power of the Lords of Liabo is used in divine intervention to cleanse the soul of the undead. The unreleased soul is resurrected within its restored body. The very highest form of resurrection is when the body is reincarnated from the soul by Lorminstra herself. This is almost unheard of, and very rare historically. It is seen almost solely in a tiny minority that is favored by the Lady of Winter for fighting in matters of Fate. In the time when "deeds" were the power for reincarnation, those of this minority who died prematurely without deeds had more favor, and there were even high priests who could actually find and pull their souls out of Purgatory. This was an exceptionally rare power. The Ebon Gate is nigh impassable. There are only very rare instances of dark forces of necromancy abducting souls from Oblivion. There have also been periods where resurrecting such prematurely dead among the "special children," before the departure of their soul, would confer the saved deed of Death to the cleric.

Those binding magics known as "lifekeeping" delay the deterioration of animus in the dying. When the animus is broken, it is released as necrotic energy. Undeath involves a cursed bondage of the soul, however achieved, or a tainted or corrupted animus. Those who have engaged in methods of soul transference try to make use of the animus of others. But these are unstable and always end up requiring repeated transfers to new hosts. In the end there will be some form of undeath, or the soul will fail to take to the host. It is only delaying the inevitable.

There is a "life force" or "life's essence" within the living that is sometimes called "spirit." It is the essence of the soul. This is often fed upon or drained by forces of darkness, and especially by the undead, which are able to sense its presence and seek it. Luukos is infamous for feasting upon the spirit. When this essence is utterly drained from the living, the soul is destroyed, torn and ripped apart in what is called "spirit death." It is impossible to resurrect a destroyed soul, except in the rare few of Fate where Lorminstra has the power to mend it. Otherwise this is poetically known as being "lost to the demonic." Though this phrase is often misused to refer to permanent death in general. The soul will not necessarily depart in spirit death. It is sometimes possible to restore the spirit in its body if lifekept fast enough. But the soul may also become cursed in the body. The destruction of the soul is one of the ways some kinds of undead make more of themselves. While the body of a displaced soul may stay barely alive in a deep coma, the destruction of the soul or animus is instant death. When the spirit is drained, the living are profoundly weakened. Though it is a confusion of terminology, the undead do not have spirit. Their life force is negative, which is why they hunger.

V.B Soul and Mind

Though the life that is large enough to be seen all possess some kind of animating spirit, most of the living have little if any sentience, and only higher life forms possess consciousness and self-awareness. While the mind is supported with physical matter known as the brain, without the soul there is no consciousness. There are philosophical disputes on how much of memory and identity are kept in the flesh or blood. It is thought that the mind is only able to sustain higher awareness by virtue of this support in animate matter. But memory and experiences are thought to be stored more permanently in "the spirit," whereas this recall is limited in flesh, thus assaults on the spirit threaten the loss of memory. What is more clear is that the mind and soul are not equivalent, but they are deeply related. The soul itself in its most base state, then, is without consciousness. It is the "spark of life" in the theologies of Imaera.

The precise terminology for the nature and working of the soul will vary by religion. In the sense of more arcane theory, there are several distinct factors, which are all relevant to the nature of undeath. Souls are thought to come into existence with birth, or else within that process, formed in some cosmic sense out of the power of Life. Though the reincarnation religions might beg to differ. Souls are essentially mindless in themselves. There is then the spirit, which is the essence of soul, which is intimately related to mind if not equivalent with it.

Whether or not the spirit in this sense is the basal form of mind, which is to say sentience, it is the necessary but not sufficient condition for consciousness. In this there are very real differences between spells which assault the mind and spirit, even though they may both be "mental" in effect, as they are striking at different heights of the tree of mind. The "animus" is the tether that keeps the soul bound, though with death it dissipates, and the soul begins leaving its body until the tether is fully severed. While necromancers prefer this term, it may be called "strength of spirit" or other such wording by others. Theories of ascension or transcendence, and immortality as everlasting spirit, often focus on empowering this binding vessel.

When the soul departs even partially from the body, the dissipation is essentially eroding away the base of consciousness, which exposes the spirit to trauma and losses. This is an aspect of so-called "Death's sting." With the unguarded soul separated from its body, it may retain memory and personality for a time, but this will gradually decay away. Much as the body may stay barely alive on its own, without the mind and soul, that base functionality remains in the mindless undead. These may or may not have souls. Non-corporeal undead will be cursed souls.

There is much theological disagreement on the subject of the souls of the undead. Cursing the soul will tend to fixate its vestiges of mind. Though it will be warped toward instincts, such as malice, or hunger for spirit to sustain itself. This is the view that is preferred by those who believe in "freeing" and cleansing the soul. Others believe the soul itself is departed or even destroyed, leaving the unguarded spirit and mind essences, which may be misused and debased in perverse imitations. In these theologies the undead are to be destroyed, and even liches are only imitations of their sources, dishonestly abusing worldly memories while the true "self" is long gone. Much as the soul may be dislocated from the body with absolutions, the mind may be absolved as well, which will dislocate consciousness. Thus, they will argue that dark absolutions will cause similar dislocations, with soul destruction allowing mental vestiges.

Speaking to this point, the conscious mind is able to dream walk or project in the astral realms, while the soul remains in the living body. It is thought by some occultists, esotericists, hierophants and others that the dream worlds may act as a more true afterlife, unlike Oblivion, which is a universal fate for all souls that at most experience it somewhat differently. But this is rather dubious, without the support of animate matter and the soul. Such a "pure mind" would almost certainly transmogrify in the dream worlds into something very unlike itself.

There are some who wish to describe "consciousness" as the very core of the self, which may exist independently of the soul and spirit. This is an occult theory that would find its use in very dark experiments of soulcrafting, amongst the most perverse and highest forms of necromancy. But this would only be true of higher forms of life, those which are sapient. In truth much of the mind, body, and soul are processes which happen unconsciously. The more animist view of the soul as fundamental, regardless of mind or spirit, is perhaps closer to the truth. But it is a profound factor in the black arts of necromancy that the soul may be decomposed as well as ripped into parts. Soul fragments have even been known to "duplicate" consciousness. This is not a difficulty for occultists. There may be innumerable duplicates of the conscious self, in some views of cosmic esotericism, which to them are epiphenomena of deeper archetypes. To them the very core of the mind is independent from its individual identity and memories, and the same conscious awareness may be reincarnated into vastly different manifestations of being.

V.C Avatars

Those beings of the spirit world who are inherently incorporeal are sentient, in some sense alive, much as we might say there is a kind of life in elementals. This is not the "life" of this world, but a more general notion of life, perhaps a more animist view of spirits. Though the elementals do not have "souls," they do have something analogous, and the Great Elementals have intelligence and self-awareness. There are elemental soulstones that siphon their essence upon death, invented by the Aelotoi madman Alusius in 5115, much as the ordinary soulstones would absorb spirit. However, the force of life in this world comes from the spirit, rather than the elements. The elements provide the host of the spirit, forming the foundation for mind. Those more inherently spiritual beings, which have both power and personality independent of physical vessels, will sometimes manifest in physical incarnations that concentrate their powers.

While Lorminstra is able to reincarnate the spirits of mortals to restore their bodies, these other Great Spirits are more limited in the power of incorporation. When they make a physical vessel to host their own power, this incarnation is known as an "avatar." Avatars weaken with physical range from their source, and more local gods will remain in some radius of their focus. The most familiar of these is the Maaghara, whose sphere of influence is the surrounding forest, centered on a huge tree tower. The Arkati thus may use powerful portals, such as the attempt of 5095 by Sheru in Darkstone Castle. They are thought to be able to make many manifestations, but can only sustain a single avatar at once. It is possible to strike them down. Though it is very difficult, involving tremendous power. The Heart of Jaston was used to destroy an avatar of Luukos in the Felstorm of 5112.

"Avatar" is inconsistent usage, and sometimes implies other things. High priests of the Arkati are sometimes known as their avatars. The Claw of Andelas is one such example, and others have been encountered in recent history, such as in the Griffin Sword Wars. Avatars in this sense are mortals, or former mortals, who have been enhanced with some of their Arkati's power. Among the cults of Luukos, for example, these visibly serpentine adherents are known as "True Luukosians" or "the Flawless." Morvule is thought to have been tens of thousands of years old.

Theorists have conjectured this is part of a spectrum of divinity. Most of the gods are unable to replace the animus of mortals. However, what they might be able to do is bolster it with their own spiritual power, effectively immortalizing their servant. Were such a being to acquire more power of the Arkati, they would possibly be able to "ascend" from the limits of their physical bodies, becoming one of the lesser gods. It is suspected that the familiar demigods were risen in this way, if they were truly demigods at all. It is thought that most of perhaps many illegitimate offspring of the Arkati throughout history have been anonymous and were not great powers in themselves. The high priests of the Dark Alliance in the second Griffin Sword War are said to have intended on tainting the power of Lorminstra in the Griffin Sword to ascend themselves. When rightly understood this must be the way highest necromancy is conducted.

While the soulcrafting of undeath is the dark sorcery of life forces, attempting to do this with holy power is extremely dangerous, as its corruption with darkness is highly explosive. The tainted Griffin Sword did, in fact, shatter in clashes of light and dark powers. Their plan had been to rend the taint in the sword to turn its surroundings into a forever cursed wasteland of undeath. Only after that would they utterly suffuse the sword in darkness, on an altar that was a conduit of the power of several Lornon gods. Its destruction warped time itself.

There is some support for this interpretation of ascension in religious legends. Tilamaire is said to have been a mortal who died while performing, and Cholen imbued him with the immortal essence that was once Tarandel's. Jaston was supposedly a fallen sylvan elf, his flesh reshaped by Imaera. He was given a replacement soul by Lorminstra, and then ascended by Imaera. Kuon was ascended upon his death. The Huntress may have died in the desert upon becoming immortal, and Arachne became immortal by killing her, drinking her blood while bitten with lethal venom. In the same fashion there are legends of Amasalen ascending from drinking the blood of Luukos, while trying to kill him, and the origins of Onar as a divine spirit in murder by mortals. In yet another legend of Amasalen, his immortality or godhood originated in being bound to a fountain of blood in the far north, which is like a phylactery because he must keep it filled.

The origins of Voln and Leya are stories laden with death, even soul eating weapons, and other purported ascensions such as Noi'sho'rah sound indistinguishable from the end of mortality. For what it is worth, there are even visions of the Great Drake discorporating into the peak of Mount Aenatumgana, which holds a huge dragon skeleton at the bottom of the Lake of Tears. The extent to which a soul would retain its identity in ascension is highly dubious. Spirits seem to unavoidably flatten out, like the undead, into limited personifications of thematics.

V.D Absolutions

There are forms of magic which attempt to assault the soul. These are sometimes spells, such as Pale Embrace or the Curse of Luukos, which rip through both the spirit and body. It is the intent of this magic to make resurrection extremely difficult. Thus they find their use in court assassinations. Much the same history is with Luukosian deathwort. There are also instant fatal channeling effects, known as Absolution, which force the soul from the body. When this is accomplished only temporarily, the body is trapped in a deep coma, unable to wake up. More "pure" absolutions permanently displace the soul out of the body, such that it may only be restored with a powerful lifegiving ritual. Such a body remains unconscious until death. There are also "dark absolutions" which destroy the soul itself. These are similar to the spirit death caused by creatures of darkness, but instead are acts of immediately destroying the soul.

Absolution is closely related to the sorcerous power that is sometimes called "sacrifice." This is an innate spell-like ability, an instant fatal channeling, where the sorcerer overpowers their victim through a sheer violent act of will. They assault the animus of the victim using part of their own spirit, causing the soul to be ripped out of its body. This is only possible on the living, not the undead or artificial beings. It may even explode the victim. Sorcerers then use the power of the sacrificed animus in various ways. They might use the essence to power their own spells, or restore the physical state and bondage of reanimated corpses, or infest their surroundings to weaken others.

There are, of course, "mental" methods of absolution. The mind may be assaulted through the path of dream worlds, and within the dreaming mind of the victim, there is what may be called the "heart of the dream." Within the Rift, understood as esoteric planes, this is literal. In the mind of Zerroth, high priest of V'tull in the second Griffin Sword War, it was a massive heart of glaes. This is what ties the fantasy to the reality of the mind of the dreamer. In a way it is the mentalist form or aspect of the animus, as the soul and mind are intimately linked. In this way Zerroth was plunged into an inescapable coma from having his consciousness effectively displaced from his body. It is similarly possible to destroy the mind with amnesia and other kinds of dementia, and this is a power that is traditionally within the scope of sorcery. Necromancers instead assault the mind in more cursed ways through nightmares and possession.

The siphoning and use of life essences is at the core of necromancy as presently practiced. Undeath is often an intentional gambit by a necromancer to not only stay in this world, but to retain their memory and identity after death. In this way the relationship of mind and soul is deeply important to the necromancy of undeath. Many undead are mindless. Others are warped shadows with some instinct for calling upon magic. What those who seek lichdom and other higher forms of undeath truly wish is to keep themselves. But the mind, too, is corrupted.

VI. Undeath

Undeath is in no way the whole of necromancy. But there is also much nuance and variation in the unliving. There are the merely reanimate, the corrupted spirits, and the soulcrafted. There are "fate worse than death" transformation curses, and the unholy which might not even be considered to be dead. Ghosts are departed spirits that have not shuffled off this mortal coil, but they may simply be wanderers or ancestral spirits. What is most often meant by "the undead" is only a subset, the cursed souls whose distinguishing trait is "corruption" or "taint."

These words have very specific meaning in terms of sorcery and the dark arts of necromancy. The forces of undeath are natural to this world. But there are other kinds of undeath that come unnaturally. Whether pollution by dark powers from other worlds, or the working of black magic on the soul itself, and manipulating or transforming flesh and life forces to the will.

VI.A Corruption

This world is a sphere that revolves around its sun, along with other worlds, much as the moons in turn spin around this world. This material universe of "planets" is called our "plane of existence," one of many other planes, or other universes than our own. While the theories of cosmology are highly complex and speculative, certain basic facts must be understood. There are "veils" separating our universe from the other realities. These are often vastly different from our own, hostile or too dangerous for life. There are parallel worlds, other versions or even histories of this world, which are much more difficult to reach. There are more purely temporal rifts, and pocket realities, which might be called demi-planes. There is the interplanar void and planes move against each other in higher dimensions. There are also a relative handful of "near planes" of existence that overlap our own and intersect with it in special places.

It is not known if all places or worlds in this universe are that accessible, or if it is more limited to the neighborhood of this world. There are some who hold that Elanthia in particular is almost uniquely on the threshold of an interdimensional rift. The Aelotoi madman Alusius had spoken of the Elanthian elements differing from those of Bre'Naere, another planet in our own plane, and spoke of elemental mana having come from the Confluence. One of the most basic cosmological theories holds that our "existence" is a spectrum of higher and lower realities, and each of these realities is a "plane" of that existence, where the higher realities are more pure or ordered in some fashion. With the exception of the near planes, these are inaccessible.

The theory is that the essence is the metaphysical substance of existence, and that its more debased or chaotic forms are unable to pierce the veil of higher realities. Those beings of the lower dimensions of existence are known as "demons." It is very difficult for demons to make their way to this world without the way being opened from this side of it. Those who return from other more demonic realms rely upon rifts or portals remaining open, if only barely, with a "link" or tether of essence bridging them back to this world through the veil. The exception to this are the near planes of existence, made of more pure forms of the essence, which remain accessible from overlapping and bleeding into our own world. The elemental planes intersect with this world in "nexus" sites at places of intense elemental energies. Dream walkers are able to wander into the mind realms, and spirits slip in and out of the spiritual planes. These are the "higher" near planes. Less often recognized are the "lower" near planes, which are more chaotic, and thus made of energies that are "darker" and more corrupt than the higher "mana."

These are sometimes called the sorcerous elements. Among these include essences such as darkness, nether, chaos, balefire, hellfire, and mawfire. The realm of "mawfire" is so named as that dimension is often used by Luukos, and thus has come to be known as the Maw of Luukos. Mawfire burns the flesh as well as the soul. Dark mages are "pure" casters of these essences, much as a wizard is a pure mage of elemental magic. But this is more truly a form of sorcery. There is a dark mirror of conventional magic that may be constructed from the sorcerous elements.

With the darkness in particular we may speak of "elemental darkness," but also of "unholy power," which instead refers to its channeled or more spiritual modes. What is important is that these dark energies are more chaotic on a spectrum of the essence, and that this chaos continues onward in intensity of corruption. In its most corrupt form the primal darkness is known as "anti-mana," as it is inherently anti-magical, and antithetical to all the rest of existence. Most other worlds are outside of existence entirely, and the outer planes are sometimes called the sorcerous valences. Some of these worlds are somewhat similar to ours. But for such entities to be physically incarnated in accord with the rules and powers of this existence, they most often must be constituted of these darker and more "negative" essences, and they are often wildly alien or insane if not malevolent. These entities are often known as "demons" as well.

This brings into focus the core issue of corruption. Whenever the essences of other planes of existence become present in this world, they are a source of corruption, tending to "taint" or debase the essence that constitutes all matter. It is metaphysical radiation poisoning. When gateways exist between universes, their properties bleed into each other. These are incompatible forces or laws alien to our own, and the more they intersect, the less distinct become those separate realities. Were "mana" not a higher energy, we could say it corrupts our world.

Making use of gateways and drawing upon the powers of the pure realms is often deemed harmless. It is a philosophical dispute, after all, whether those essences are foreign to this world. But this is glib. Major gateways to the near planes are profoundly dangerous and have risked or caused the destruction of whole cities. There are also living beings of this world which are highly "corrupted" with those energies. Though the dominant ideologies of magical practitioners often try to overlook or ignore this fact. They might be called "gifted" with magic. But it is beyond the differential talents of bloodlines, often manifesting as uncontrollable power, and a high sensitivity causing them much suffering. This charitable ignorance or benign neglect of corruption is not extended to the sorcerous elements and the demonic in general. These are much more likely to cause matter to become "cursed" through sorcerous backlash. When it is the animate matter that is so corrupted, such cursed spirits become the undead. They are bound to the broken essence of their being, violations of nature itself which remain animated.

Though it is the conceit of elementalists that the elements make up the inanimate matter of this world, that is known to not be true at the metaphysical level of essences. There are metals that are inherently cursed, or corrupted with the sorcerous elements, much as the more recognized elemental metals. While these might be "pure metals" in some metallurgic sense, they are alloys of otherworldly essences, and some "naturally occurring" metals are sorcerous. Urglaes is the metal of elemental darkness, urnon is the metal of elemental chaos, and so on.

Much the same may be said of holy and unholy metals, or those which are extraplanar in orientation. It is the darkness that is most important for undeath. It is sufficient for the essence of the dead to become cursed through traumatic violence, the backlash of ordinary magic, or the entropic decay of a lingering spirit. But there are many kinds of undead that are instead tainted with dark essences. Whether indirectly or directly from the demonic, or the otherworldly poisoning of a haunted realm. Most often it is from the "shadows" or "darkness." Elementals formed of this primal darkness are known for draining the power around them, inflicting severe coldness, and for being highly anti-magical in various ways. Often the undead were resistant or immune to the cold for this reason. The more powerful may exert an empathic tug on other tainted souls. Highly corrupt beings of this kind are often immune to most ordinary magic. When the living are highly corrupted with this power, it not only transforms their bodies. It inevitably bends their minds toward cruelty. They become twisted and often driven into madness.

VI.B Taint

The special case of matter that is cursed with dark essences, or especially the unholy power of pure darkness, is known as being "tainted." There is a kind of staining, or darkening, in the essence of this plane becoming more chaotic from sorcerous backlashes. The soul may be cursed unto undeath. But such a soul is not "tainted" with evil. It is the difference between spilling wine on a white garment, which may be washed out, and immobilization with hardened tar. Where the tar is only "freed" through flames of immolation. While a soul may be "released" by having its undead form broken, such as with holy weapons or magic, those souls that are tainted with dark essences will themselves be cursed. Whether curses may be cleansed from matter depends on the strength of the curse and the holy power that is attempting to purify it. When the matter is too deeply and profoundly cursed, this will fail, or even backlash in a dangerous way.

Much the same principle holds with the souls of the undead. It is a theological dispute about what becomes of truly released souls that are deeply "stained" with corruption. In the older forms of the Death religion, the worst possible fate was the destruction of the soul. Some kinds of undead are made through "spirit death," where the spirit is drained until the soul is torn apart. When the soul is destroyed and forever lost, it is said to be "lost to the demonic." For the most part Lorminstra cannot help such souls, notwithstanding "special" ones.

It was once the dominant belief that if a soul is too far gone, Lorminstra would annihilate the cursed spirit in her staff. Thus putting the wicked spirit out of its misery. The followers of Voln and other such hunters interpreted "cleansing" the undead as meaning purging the world of their evil. However, the k'Tafali sect held a different dogma, which is now dominant. It is such a basic tenet of the Order of Voln that it is often overlooked in their theological disagreements. They believe that at the core of a cursed soul is an innocent, and they claim to hear weeping, as if a child, when the soul is released. "Cleansing" in their doctrine means the soul is purified of its worldly pollutions, literally through its consecration in holy waters. It is said Lorminstra sheds a tear for each soul that dies before its time or chooses the darkness. This "Lake of Tears" is semi-factual. The Griffin Sword pieces were cleansed in it in 5096. It is known to exist in multiple places, as a blessing from Lorminstra herself. It is sometimes called the Enchanted River, and its waters are used for initiation in Voln monasteries.

This is a dubious belief, even if it might be a partial truth. Tainted souls have a profound hatred of the living, seeking out life forces to destroy them. These were often highly corrupt figures when they were alive, such as necromancers and other "evildoers." Moreover, the higher undead retain some intelligence, however fallen. Over the centuries and millennia, the undead become shadows of their former selves, descending into monomania and a kind of madness. The soul is not able to hold onto memory in death, it fades away much as it would in Oblivion. There are even those who believe the exact opposite of Voln monks. That their souls were destroyed. Whatever the unliving thing is replacing it is dishonestly abusing its worldly memories.

These warped vestiges, whatever the case may be, are "released" if the curse is broken. But that may not be so simple, and such souls often are not innocents, freed from false prisons. It is not at all clear from a theory of magic perspective that all souls can be "cleansed" with holy power. Those that cannot might be better thought of as having become the demonic. Those of the demonic that are of primal darkness will require holy weapons to be destroyed. It is too integral to the core of their being to "cleanse" them of it. There is a more general or abstract sense where all sentients have some sort of "spirit" or "soul," and such demons are inherently and intrinsically corrupt with that dark power. They can only be banished or destroyed. There is ambiguity, then, when classifying the extraplanar undead. These may have once been "life," but in some animist sense of the living, or having become banished and since attuned to some other plane or valence. In this same fashion there are entities that originated in other planes, such as wyrds, which cease to be "extraplanar" after becoming attuned to this world.

There are, of course, demons which perform their own necromantic rituals. Vathors are infamous for mutilating the corpses of this world to make necleriines, which are considered demons, but by all common sense are rightly seen as undead. The Demon Lord that haunts and possesses Bonespear Tower in Vornavis is said to be the master of legions of undead. Nor is it even terribly uncommon for other extraplanar entities, which are not considered demons in this sense, to make more of themselves using our dead. Whether glistening cerebralites or v'reen morphs.

VI.C The Undead

There are some kinds of undead that are recognized as obviously undead. These were the living, humanoids or animals, who died, and their souls became stuck and cursed. Other kinds of undead make for much more subtle questions. Whether a malevolent spirit summoned from another world is a non-corporeal demon or a non-corporeal undead is not necessarily obvious. The non-corporeal undead often are only loosely bound to this plane of existence, and do not necessarily even originate in it, possibly having been a corrupted spirit of the spirit planes. This distinction of corporeal and non-corporeal is not absolute. There are "corporeal" undead which float off the ground, and flicker out of existence, or incarnate temporarily from immateriality. But the hallmark of the undead is a singular, bent focus on seeking out life forces, and destroying or consuming them. Whether spiritually as with soul siphons, or physically as with wights.

These sorts of true undead, sometimes called the unlife, are almost blind to whatever is not living. The undead have no natural instinct to attack anything without life forces. The demonic instead tend to be violent against all of nature, subjugating or destroying most anything around them, which includes the living within it. These are only crude generalizations. It is the practice of necromancers to suffuse themselves with dark essences, which masks their own life forces, making the undead perceive the necromancer as one of the more powerful undead.

However, there are other kinds of unliving things which are not the true undead, and which are not necessarily tainted or even cursed. There are ways of animating corpses with incantations that make them into puppets. Or they might be kept animated, made into flesh golems, with possessing spirits that are not cursed souls. Constructs and golems are always animated with some kind of "spirit" bound within them. These might be a minor spirit of nature, or an elemental, or a demon, or even a soul (that is, a bodiless deceased) merely hosted in the vessel. Such an enchanted construct is able to hold the spirit. But it will eventually break down, unless the spirit is corrupted first, and becomes trapped in the matter. When there is a cursed soul that is within a construct, such as with bone or soul golems, the construct is considered undead. It is important to note that the properties of the undead will change with their physical form. Possessing spirits, where non-corporeal undead enter a host, may acquire different powers. There are many other kinds of unnatural "life" which are not necessarily seen as undead.

There are a few symptoms that are usually used to distinguish the undead. They will be cursed souls which will not stay damaged or destroyed by weapons that are not holy, or at least, they are resistant to such damages unless the weapon is sanctified. They will not have the chaotic essence barriers of major demonic, which require highly magical holy blades to break through. The corruption of their life forces is deeply violating, which forms a vile aura around them, forcing spiritual apprehension or horror or abject terror in those weaker than them. They were historically resistant to cold and more vulnerable to flames. Non-corporeal spirits that shift into physicality may be coated with a substance called ectoplasm. And so on, and so forth.

Whether these "cursed souls" are truly a whole soul with a stain on it, or the soul was torn apart and only vestiges of spirit and mind were left behind, is more of a theological question on the nature of the soul. It is not difficult to imagine away excuses for either interpretation, and it may well be that these both happen in different kinds of undead. The k'Tafali branch of Voln worship holds to a dogma of releasing cursed souls which are the suffering. However, this is largely an invention of their theologians, as their own early records say no such thing. It was the mandate of Voln to "vanquish the suffering," which says nothing more than striking down the true undead. In this work we make no presumption slaying undead "releases" souls.

This is not to deny that there are more exotic forms of undeath which do not fit these conditions. Nor does it deny that it includes some "unliving" things which arguably are not dead, such as some of the curses of blood magic or witchcraft. The undead are often, but not always, immune to spells affecting the mind. The same may be said for spells of fear or targeting the soul. They are nominally immune to much of sorcery. This is deceptive as there are ways to intercede on their curse to make them vulnerable or otherwise control them. The Order of Voln does this in a number of ways with holy powers, and necromancers often do so with the use of unholy power or darkness. Moreover, many of the special kinds of undead cannot be made simply by casting a spell, they must come into being under very specific conditions. This is more art than theory, often with elaborate rituals. Otherwise the necromancer must conjure what already exists.

There is a danger in the forces of darkness that transcends those of mortal monsters. They have the potential to destroy the soul, or curse their victims with undeath, or inflict foul and unhealing maladies. Their very presence is corrupting to their surroundings. The powers of undeath and the demonic stain the bodies and spirits of those around them. It is partly for this reason that the Order of Voln consecrates its initiates in holy water. Those undead whose curse merely binds them to haunted places may be relatively innocuous. But even a single ill-fated encounter with an unfamiliar kind of undead may imperil one's everlasting existence. Those who obsessively slay such fiends have a death wish, and that wish is often paid in undeath.

VI.D Haunted Realms

There are cursed objects which will inflict ill effects on those who touch them or otherwise expose themselves to it. Curses will break the matter at the foundation of its existence. With "animate matter" curses are most often temporary, but most often are permanent in inanimate matter. In the corruption of this matter, sorcerers are able to imbed spell-like effects, which become like spells which are inherently cast with some power. There is a rigidity in cursing which resists or prevents the matter from being changed. It is for this reason that the curse of undeath makes it difficult to permanently damage or destroy the undead. Whether curses weaken or strengthen, or remain the same, over time is situational. It was the discovery of warlocks in the Southron Wastes in the Second Age, or perhaps even earlier, that the undead are sometimes bound to cursed objects, and might be able to be controlled or destroyed through them.

However, there is nothing special about a dubious antique idol or heirloom warblade, or any other such soul binder. Souls may be cursed to wider kinds of matter. These range from haunted houses, or mishandled burial grounds, to castles which suffered terrible battles. One of the reasons the history of the Age of Chaos in the West is so poorly recorded is because the hunters of dark forces would so often destroy what might have later become archaeological sites. Nor was this without cause. It is futile to slay undead that are actually cursed to locations.

These desecrated lands come into being in ways that mirror the varied causes of undeath. The Kingdom of Reim was cursed with undeath as a consequence of a magical backlash, trapping those within its energy barrier in an ethereal, "unlife" state between life and death. They are bound between this reality and the ethereal spiritual planes. These are a kind of undead that are fixed in their roles from when they were living. In contrast, the Citadel of the Kingdom of Elanith suffered a necromantic accident, the Council of Mages having turned to dark magic. Both became haunted around a thousand years ago, in the centuries after the collapse of the Kannalan Empire, and many of the Citadel were not even "awake" until disturbed in 5108. The fortress of ShadowGuard was overrun with the Undead twenty thousand years ago, and with the sheer concentration of dark power, the fortress itself was cursed with undeath and remains haunted. There are many such places where "released" souls might ultimately remain undead. Theologians who even acknowledge this justify it as shifting the Balance by draining power from darkness. Others try to argue the soul was released, but some malevolent force is replacing them with more cursed souls. The irony of this dogma is that it encourages the survival of haunted places.

More profoundly, there are the stained or tainted lands, those haunted realms which are whole regions. These are wide spaces which have suffered very deep corruption. This may be the result of vast undead hordes, or the presence of major demonic powers, terrible cataclysms, or valencial tears or instabilities that poison the region by flooding it with dark energies. The fey spirits of nature are haunted, becoming violent from trauma, or twisted and warped with the unnatural powers. There will most likely be a high density of spirits that become trapped. It is important to keep in mind that there may be many such spirits hidden in the background. Those wicked spirits that are the non-corporeal undead are often only the tips of icebergs.

This is the special case of magical corruption that results from sorcerous backlash and more chaotic essences or demonic powers. In general, there may also be corruption from the pure kinds of mana or the auras of powerful entities such as gods, which may transform the lands and the living within them. This is seen even in the case of intense releases of holy power, such as in the spectral mourning bugs of Elstreth, which now sense necrotic energy. The wastelands thus are not the only source of magical mutants, but theirs are far more vicious or grotesque.

The Southron Wastes and especially Rhoska-Tor are thought to have been flows disrupted by the collapse of an utterly enormous major portal of the Ur-Daemon. Rifts to other worlds, when very powerful, are highly dangerous. They weaken the barriers between planes or valences, and their collapse will produce catastrophic devastation. Major gateways are usually warded or "sealed" instead of truly closed. It is for this reason Marlu is said to gain power through the loosening and opening of portals. Damages to the veil in localized regions may be permanent, thinning the barrier between worlds in those places, more easily ripped and even "bled through" by extraplanar forces or entities. With respect to haunted realms, intense concentrations of essences cause the formation of interplanar "nexus" sites, where other dimensions of those essences bleed through into this world. Wastelands of undeath will be prone to this "natural" rifting. The presence of such rifts and gateways, formed through the corrupt essences, then cause more of that dark power to bleed into it. The haunted realm transforms, becoming the other world.

The Bleaklands is deeply cursed with the "shadows," which is really a mixture of elemental darkness and chaos, and so it is tearing open with many rifts to the Shadow Realm that was once where Althedeus resided. The Wizardwaste has a "Crater" where Toullaire once was, which is now some profoundly corruptive inferno of essences. The Wizardwaste and Bleaklands are intimately related, through the witch Raznel and her corruption with the Talon of Toullaire. While the corrupted waste creatures are not necessarily "undead," they get sick and die if they leave its borders, unable to survive without that unnatural radiation. The Southron Wastes have underground rifts and essence fluxes. In this way cursed wastelands deepen and self-reinforce.

Such "realms" might even be highly exotic, like the demented temporal pocket dimensions of "paragons," advanced soul vessels made from the living with demonic blood magic. Souls which make their way into more infernal realms, outside of this dimension, will quite naturally become cursed into extraplanar undeath and attuned to those more demonic forms of power. In the same fashion the living who are corrupted with dark powers may become "attuned" to them, such that they become physiologically dependent on a haunted realm in order to not deteriorate.

Thus curses are not necessarily as simple as cleansing a "taint" of toxic essences. The unliving thing, or living if such can be considered life, may become dependent upon it. Curses might also be much more conceptual or abstract in their roots. It might be necessary to make amends or avenge the cause of death, or make the undead become self-aware of their true condition, or having to know their true name, or any number of conceits that might have been imposed. Such might break the curse, but will not cleanse the soul. But purifying or consecrating a desecrated land, especially one that is profoundly tainted, is often extremely difficult. It might take thousands of years to heal, even if the sources of corruption are removed. For this reason it was much more likely in the past for iconoclasts to wreck haunted places. Major haunted realms such as the Bleaklands, the Wizardwaste, or Rhoska-Tor are likely beyond Imaera herself.

VII. Necromancy and the Black Arts

"Frae Naira vers Deiam, Jae esais bevre Tua ae te Draekeche."

"From Dusk til Dawn, I stand between thee and the darkness."

Motto of House Illistim
- from the journals of
Linsandrych Illistim
circa -49,080

In the early years of civilization there was the spiritual "death magic" of mortuary rituals, whether of Liaboan religions or the practices of shamanism. Through the vagaries of historical forces, dark religions became concentrated in tainted and corrupted lands, and so their "death magic" incorporated the malevolent powers of more infernal realms. In this way the black arts of necromancy arose from more spiritual magic, which were later adapted and incorporated to some extent into Faendryl sorcery, their synthesis now known more broadly as "the dark arts."

But the black arts are practiced in their own right by warlocks, witches, and so on in the wilder and untamed places, and there is still black shamanism. It is worth studying the many kinds of powers, rituals, and black arts that have been known or rumored to exist. Much of these are lost knowledge, either to or from dark ages, which can only hope to be partly covered.

VII.A Methodology

Necromancy in the way it is treated in this work is the malign manipulation of life forces and all of the various kinds of animate matter. It is only a narrow subset of this which relates to the undead. Though it much more broadly involves the unliving, and the black arts often end in soul taint and madness. These practices are the historical outgrowths of widely disparate cults, covens, cabals, sects, secret societies, theocracies, or any number of other maleficent villains. There is not necessarily any clear continuity for their forbidden knowledges. These will have been thought eradicated, only to surface again elsewhere, centuries or millennia later. This is sometimes an accidental discovery of archaeologists, or well-meaning antiquarians, or unexpected relics turning up in construction. There have historically been purveyors of dark knowledge, however, who knowingly sow chaos by spreading what was not meant to be known.

While there are perhaps "traditions" in a very broad sense, there was also much cross-pollination, with long forgotten secrets from older times being dug up and then lost again. These are not guilds or schools of magical thought, with codified spell circles and thaumaturgical doctrines. The black arts are often syncretic in the works of individuals of varied backgrounds. It will consist of rituals that are embedded in heterodox theologies, the orthopraxis of depraved religions, and the imitation or attempted re-creation of powers discovered by accident.

Therefore, these attempts at categorization are abstracted conventions foreign to the practices themselves, and our understanding is necessarily limited. Esoteric practices by their nature are hidden behind initiations, and the dangerous will try to guard their secrets. What is known of the black arts comes from many indirections. Occult grimoires from scholastics in the dark ages, eldritch works of provenance from dark powers, rituals observed by light religions, and the surviving records of witch hunters are all sources of insight. Often the best insight into the black arts, without actually practicing them, comes from the history of countering it. What follows is an approximation of the kinds of black arts that have existed historically.

VII.B The Black Arts

The black arts are distinguished by the use of unholy power and dark essences of the infernal realms. There may be more conventional forms of sorcerous magic involved, such as curses and the destruction of matter, but the core of it is demonic power. There are dark mirrors of the pure realms of power, though there are no truly "pure" black arts. They are all in a sense hybridized, unnatural fusions of the essences of this plane of existence, and thus fall under the umbrella of dark sorcery. Black arts will inevitably taint and poison the wielder.

Woefully incomplete, we can organize some of the practices of these cultists and cabalists, setting them in ethnographic and ontological terms. The undead and the demonic may wield these powers as well, which is in no way coincidental. The black arts are the dark path that will seduce and debase its followers, until they fall into madness and some form of unliving.

(1) Unlife and Undeath

While there are "true undead" that are not tainted, such as cursed souls from entropic decay, those that are corrupted by the demonic and darkness are the unlife. Unlife are more profoundly corrupted than the other unliving, their very presence a deep pollution and hazard to the living around them. This may cause local spirits to be corrupted and possess mindless corpses, or they may rip out soul fragments from their victims, using it to make more of their kind. The black arts of necromancy are those that are related to the "true unlife" in this sense.

This is to be distinguished from the low necromancy that is practiced in dark sorcery. While the Faendryl have embraced magic that is widely condemned by other cultures, they are not naive to the hazard of poisoning themselves. Much of the black arts will not be tolerated under the severity of Faendryl laws, given their vile perversion and the dangers posed to others.

High Necromancy

Where "low necromancy" encompasses the sorcery of reanimating flesh, or the conjuring of mindless undead, it is not necessarily the use of extraplanar sources of power. High necromancy is what might be called the flow magic of dark essences, and will involve fundamentally perverting the constitutive essence and matter of the living or once living. It is violence to the soul itself, or transforming the body, making it into "unlike kinds" or other states of being. High necromancy is ontological debasement in a way that transcends the mere cursing of souls.


Soulcrafting has its historical origins among mortals in the southern wastelands of the early Second Age. With the animist traditions of tribes of various humanoid races, there was symbolic reciprocity in life and death. Slaying a beast would be followed by honoring its true name, calling upon its spirit, and the spirit of the weapon would be thanked with offerings. Ancestral spirits were an ambivalent subject. Their bones would have to be kept fed with offerings, and regarded as displeased when possessed by a wasteland spirit, which would have to be appeased in living sacrifices. The most recent ancestor might be venerated as a protector, until the death of their progeny, where they would then become spurned for having forsaken their children. Yet others believed the wicked spirits were ancestors who had not been given their due, so they would be summoned to inflict wrath on those souls who deserved to be punished in their stead.

Through the rituals of handling "the ancestors," more truly the wraiths and shattered spirits of the wastes, dark religions would come to capture the souls of the dead in vessels. With the dark powers of the wastelands, they were able to punish the spirits, ripping them apart or burning them with hell fires. This would slowly evolve into manipulating souls in such a way that they preserved more of their minds through their curses. This was the province of demonic cults. In the Age of Chaos onward, however, soulcrafting has most often been a Luukosian art.

Souls will usually drift into the spirit realms, or perhaps the netherworlds if they are cursed. But it is possible for demonic forces from other worlds, or the Dark Gods, to intrude their power into localized regions. These are usually the unholy places of dark shrines and temples. Souls of the dead in these places may be fed upon or even seized by those forces. This is one of the ways the extraplanar undead have come into existence historically, as the souls of the dead end up in more infernal realms, such as from ritual sacrifices. Soulcrafting became most important to the traditions seeking lichdom. There were also blood mages and necromancers who sought to make artificial souls, much as one might summon an elemental, instead stealing from the spiritual essences of Life. These perversions instead only led to the birth of abominations. Thus, high necromancy is mostly focused on mutilating existing souls, forging the spirit.


The black arts of transmogrification come from several different historical traditions. In the South there was the sympathetic magic of witchcraft and its use of blood magic for inflicting transformation curses. These were deepened in their debasement with the use of dark essences, or even tainted substances such as demon blood. In the East there were the occult traditions of homunculi and recapitulation from the blood, or other humors, though this was a reviled and deep underground practice of secret societies. Much later in the West, near the end of the Age of Chaos, there was an occult tradition that sought to accomplish transmogrification through soulcrafting, which is to say reincarnating the soul into other bodies and kinds of beings.

Blood mages and necromancers in the Modern Age have crossed those more ancient southern and eastern traditions, forging flesh horrors and other monstrosities in incubators or metamorphic vessels. Desecration ritual traditions of witchcraft were most recently combined with demonic blood magic by Raznel, who formed the Bleaklands in a magical explosion, powered with shadow energy in batteries of substances of mass death. Instead of the slow mutation of the "living undead" in haunted realms, the lost souls of Talador were transmogrified into abominations.

Transmogrified are not necessarily "dead," and so often are not deemed to be "undead." But this is a narrow view of unliving, and we need not allow certain religions to be the final word on these matters. Whether or not they have the particularity of cursed spirit bound within their form, their forms may be deeply tainted, and so we would consider them of the unlife. In this way we have "undead," or even the "true undead," and "unlife" as only partly overlapping. The weakest end of the spectrum are lingering ghosts, while the farthest end are infernal beings of darkness, especially demons. Transmogrification by its very nature will debase the essence of the living or dead, so it will pull them to the dark side even without chthonic essences.


There are few subjects taken so widely as factual, with so little actual proof, as the belief in ascension to divinity. It is perhaps driven by the hopelessness offered by Oblivion. There are the religious myths and legends of ascension, where demi-gods and some purported mortals are said to have achieved godhood, most often from having been imbued with divine power by some other higher being. There are even popular legends of the Arkati themselves coming into existence this way, for those who imagine them as born from the Drakes, as opposed to the traditions which imagine them as something like a mortal race with parents and children. Demi-gods always happen to find their parentage in the ill-recorded gaps of chaotic periods and dark ages.

Most "histories" regarding ascended "once mortals" are only legends written in historical settings. Basic details will vary, in spite (or perhaps because) of communes. Amasalen is widely believed to have once been Faendryl, but this is sometimes before the Houses formed, and other times in the Second Age before the Exile. Voln is informed of his divine heritage as "son" of Koar. In some tales it is Koar who tells him, while in others it is Lorminstra. When legends agree with each other on details, this may only reflect fictions borrowed between stories.

In contrast to this are the historical attempts to actually achieve some form of ascension. There are those who believe a kind of spiritual "transcendence" can happen after death, where a powerful spirit remains, but becomes a servant of the gods with its memory and identity intact rather than just a ghost. There is at least some truth in this idea, with genuine historical examples, such as with the disir, who were the dead of the gigas who were called upon to guard over the other dead. Others such as the high priests of the Dark Alliance have attempted to steal the divine essence of an Arkati for themselves. There are those such as Grishom Stone who seek power augmenting artifacts, and special vessels, such as urnon golems or other works of blood magic. Occultists have sought ways for the consciousness to transcend any given physical incarnation. In truth the mere act of achieving "eternal life" as a non-corporeal spirit is utterly mundane. Demi-liches are perhaps closest to the ideal of shedding the physical body and achieving immortal power as a non-physical being. This is not what the religious mean with the word "ascension." They imagine instead some mystical transubstantiation into an ill-defined state of godhood. "Ascension" in any practical sense of the word is high necromancy.

Demonic Necromancy

In the orthodox religion of the moon pantheons, the undead are often viewed as related to Luukos in some way, all under the aegis of his will or power. Luukos is imagined as having weaved himself into the cycles of Life and Death, where all of Undeath is an imbalance toward himself. It is related to the metaphysical views of magic that believe the world inheres with patterns that were willed into it. This is roundly rejected by most necromancers. Those who are not Luukosians. Most Faendryl are atheists in the way they regard the workings of magic, and for deep historical reasons, they are disposed to fusionist or cosmic metaphysics. In the more cosmicist views of undeath, Luukos is vastly overblown, little more than a dabbler in the demonic.

Needless to say, the present work rejects the paradigm of the Death religions, insofar as they pertain to the fundamental nature of Unlife. We are keeping the actors scaled to their stage. While high necromancy may use more cosmic sources of power, demonic necromancy is that which more directly includes demons. This might be the unliving made with demon blood, or those with extraplanar transmogrification, or unnatural hybrids and abominations. Nor is this to be confused with necromancy of demons, such as reanimating slain demons, or spirit possessing them.


The origins of humanoid races in this world are not truly known or understood. There was perhaps once a single humanoid ancestral race, which was mutated under the influence of the magical energies. This is by no means obvious. They might instead have mutated out of multiple lineages, with some more elder ancestor in common. It is related to the unknowns on how old Elanthia is and when there was first magic in the world. There are religions which take it for granted that the higher life forms were fashioned by the Arkati. It is not really disputed that Imaera, and now apparently L'Naere, would lifeweave the higher races. There are fusion hybrids, such as the centaurs, which must be unnatural. But they are not regarded as born of dark magic.

The more barbaric and darker races, however, are seldom ever credited to the works of Imaera. These are sometimes described as "devolved" by some Illistim Loremasters, or else "primitive" and thus "not evolved," by such cultural and ideological standards of progress and assumptions of aboriginal states. Among the Faendryl it is more generally assumed that the monster races all had origins in sorcerous mutation. There is much to say for this view, as mutants and aberrations are rampant in haunted realms. The study of "monsters" is known as teratology.

However, much as science may be reversed toward artifice, so may the study of monsters. Those who study how monsters "work" may in turn try to twist beings into working that way. Teratology has a wide range of practices, ranging from mutagenic radiations to coercive breeding as livestock. One of the more familiar examples in the northwest are thraks, which were bred to be warm blooded lizards by a sorcerer near what is now called Darkstone Bay, likely imported from Teras Isle. What may be called "dark empathy" is the traditional way of meshing still living flesh to make hybrids, ideally ones which may pass on their traits through their seed. While the Ur-Daemon would have made abominations of their own, the demonic which make it into the wasteland will hybridize with wildlife, which must be dealt with by those who dwell in the wastes. It is thought that the mixture of the demonic into teratology thus began with animal husbandry.

It was then more willfully performed by warlocks and demonic cults, such as using venom or blood or body parts of demons and eldritch horrors, transmogrifying the living with blood magic. In yet another form of this, the cultists of Temple Wyneb in the eastern DragonSpine will rip the eyes from the dead, and ritually transform them into eye monsters known as farlooks. These will be highly resistant to either magic or physical injury. Their birth is quite similar to cerebralites, sorcerous eye familiars, and the fell eyes of blood mages and some oculoths.

In this fashion the black arts of teratology overlap with necromancy and demonology in general. While the Faendryl summoner will focus on control, exploring and classifying, this is usually concerning things that already exist. Necromancers will instead debase, fuse, or try to make what does not exist. There are those who wish to make their own demons in necromantic ways, or conjure them out of cosmic forces like elementals. There are those who study how demons such as necleriines are risen, or who try to use these methods to forge new kinds of demons. This is very dangerous, and fortunately, a very rare black art. There are some monsters thought to have instead originated in soulcrafters forcing demonic possession in the living and undead.

Aberrations and Abominations:

Aberrations are among those of the living which have been highly corrupted with "sorcerous elements" or so-called demonic power. While we are mostly concerned with the living, more strictly speaking, aberrations may be defined in more general terms. They would be the native beings of a world who are transformed with exposure to alien forces from other worlds. In this they are distinct from the transformation cursed, "half-fiends" like demonic hybrids, and the transmogrified. Twisted by the foreign and unnatural, aberrations are mutants, in a way aliens of their own world. While there are mutants from intense magic or mana of the higher pure realms, these are usually not what is meant. Though the distinction might be overlooked in other views. In this the trolls are especially prone to elemental corruption, ranging from stone or lava trolls to krag dwellers, and often these may have been artificial such as Thurfel's "grahnks."

Aberrations are formed from the mutagenic corruption of essences from the infernal realms or outer valences. They will often be warped and misshapen, grotesquely malformed with unnatural physiology, with asymmetrical features and possibly innate spell-like powers. While there might be corruption with darkness, this is more usually found in the true undead. Aberrations will more generally have been twisted with the power of chaos. The monsters which are formed with both of these forces, or the shadows, are more nightmarish than mere shambling corpses. For lack of a better way of wording it, aberrations are "unclean," much like the true undead. Their presence taints their surroundings and injuries by them are more "vile" than ordinary wounds.

There are legends of the more barbaric humanoid races having been transformed from men and elves. There may be some truth in this, as witches have cursed men into orcs, and giantmen into trolls. But there are strange aberrant races in the wastelands and under the oceans, whether iguanoids or banaltra or tritons, with dubious and ill-known provenances. Deep under the wastes there may be grotesque races who rarely ever see the light of day. On the surface they are dealt with by tribesmen or "living undead" cabalists, those who survive in such places, such as the Qulladim in the Wizardwaste. They may be made artificially in depraved experiments. Thurfel Morpholik of the Council of Ten had his Keep in an underground cavern, with an abundance of strange glyphs, which has numerous living and deranged mutants. Abominations may be much like aberrations. Except those were born of more direct hybridization than passive mutation.

Infernal Undead:

Taint with the corruption of more chaotic or darker essences from the lower existences will be present in the "true unlife" of the undead. This is mostly for the darkness. However, we may classify other "infernal undead" than those of the darkness, which are tainted or constituted of other sorcerous elements. This is a fine distinction and there may be taint by more than one kind of chthonic energy. For our purposes the "chthonic" energies are those of the more dark and chaotic pits of existence, while "extrachthonic" refers instead to the sorcerous valences or "outer planes" of varied taint. It is beyond the scope of this work to elaborate the cosmology of infernal planes, or identify the preternatural properties for all manners of otherworldly power. But some are familiar. Those made with mawfire deserve special mention. They are truly undead and most always Luukosian. Mawfire will burn living matter, as well as the soul.

Nether is an essence of utter inertness, and has a profound power for shearing matter. Netherworlds in the truest sense of that word are only suitable for spirits. It is the taint of nether that often helps wraiths, disembodied necromancers, and non-corporeal undead to inflict physical injuries with their claws. Fortunately, they rarely have enough of it to shatter weapons. It has sometimes been argued that razern is corrupted with nether, which would come from tainting through veil weaknesses. This identity of nether with "underworlds" may be very literal.

Hellfire also warrants special attention, as it is used in demonic rituals. Vathors will manifest in this world surrounded by a force field of elemental chaos. But they are what may be called "fire demons," which is to say "hellfires," as the dark mirror of elemental fire magic. They are immolated as the natural state of their being, and their very blood is burning. What is most intriguing with the vathors for our purposes is their fashioning of necleriines from corpses of our world through a necromantic ritual. This involves ripping the heart out and burning it in their own hand with demonic flames, along with chanting words in their dark language and fiery sigils forming, which blackens the heart but makes it start beating again unnaturally.

Vathors will then immolate the corpse and raise the burning liquified flesh up, and cut their own wrist, sending a stream of their fiery blood into the boiling flesh. This forms into shape around the heart and becomes a necleriine, which has a mocking caricature of its victim's face, which is actually a translucent liquid layer analogous to the v'reen morphs. Necleriines are inherently demonic blood magic, and paradoxically, they also have powers of frost from the taint of pure darkness. Abyran'ra have a talent for molding spines into burning whip-blades.

Blackfire is similar to hellfire in that it is a more chaotic form of elemental fire. But it is used in dark absolutions, and more likely to be wielded by dark mages. Blackfire is typically made rather than summoned from an infernal realm. It is the unnatural fusion of elemental fire with holy mana, which is highly destructive, but it will burn spirit and corrupt matter. It is a color distortion from the light being drained out of it. In a thaumaturgical sense, by burning holy power blackfire is in a limited way the "opposite" of hellfire, which is instead fusing the pure darkness of unholy power with elemental fire. Blackfire is not usually seen in undead, due to the use of holy mana. It is sometimes seen in mana storms, such as Darkstone Castle.

Bluish-black flames are also seen in "evil mist" manifestations in Darkstone Castle. Mana storms in general may cause bleedthrough. Balefire is mostly black, but is inherently extraplanar. In fact, though we speak of balefire as an infernal essence when it is in this existence, this energy is more truly "extrachthonic" as it originates in contact with the outer valences. The purely extrachthonic essences and any "unliving" thereof are somewhat outside the scope of this work. Xazkruvrixis radiation might not be chthonic, but it may have unliving potential.

Demons are resistant to the low necromancy of reanimation, which are essentially puppets, suffused with attuned elemental energy. Balefire may be more useful in this way. The demonic are more attuned with balefire, their chaos essences fusing into it naturally, which is often seen in augmenting flares. But this is not typically seen in the "true undead" of this world. With balefire it is more common for the corrupted, such as dhu goleras or Vvrael warlocks or night mares, to summon it for assaulting others. One notable exception is the Citadel of the fallen Kingdom of Elanith. Its guards are highly corrupted with balefire, including their Hammers of Kai. But it is most unusual in that it burns white instead of greenish-black. It is probably a fusion like blackfire due to the "searing light" magic by their Council of Mages. Nevertheless, it illustrates the difficulty of our task, as the undead may be corrupted in many ways.

Demonic Necrobotany:

One imagines the physical bodies of twisted fauna when speaking of aberrations and abominations, so it is worth speaking of flora or more sessile living things separately. Much as inanimate matter will be transformed by exposure to magical energies --- such as alabaster turning into despanal, or the horrific origins of blood marble and bleakstone --- so will animate matter be transformed and mutated with metaphysical radiation. In this such things as plants, fungi, slimes, and so on, are no exception. Among the most innocuous examples is the fact that witchwood, a mutant variation of the mistwood breed of ironwoods, will only grow in graveyards as there is much necrotic energy. This is a purely natural example of a death induced aberration.

Nevertheless, there are deeper corruptions of plantlife and other such organisms, often the result of dark magic or the demonic. Wherever the veil is weak, there is exposure to energies, and even "spirits" of various kinds. Though there are truly undead plants in this world, it is the aberrant and abominable that are more interesting. There are extraplanar fungi, mosses, and slimes in dark places. These are thought to be survivals from the Age of Darkness. Marluvian cultists would harvest some of these as components of sustenance for hibernating vruul.

While one does not often imagine the Marluvians as "gardeners," their tradition of corrupting nature is well precedented. It was a Marluvian priest that was serving in the interest of the Shadows who ended a blight with ritual sacrifices, only to provide the desecrating conditions for spreading seeds of an extraplanar demonic strain of blood eating trees. These were actually domesticated by a twisted sylvan horticulturalist, who calls herself Goblyn, in a dark orchard in the underground realm known as Lich's Landing. In addition to many poisonous plants, she has bred various abominable trees, of both demonic and necromantic natures. One such example are weeping willow trees that were mutated by germinating them in Shien'tyr, which is a valence of utter darkness. The thew bark tree is a banyan native to another valence, but is mutated with elemental and chaos magic, and has to be grafted into living flesh to grow. Goblyn has a penchant for insisting things do what their names imply. Her chokecherries cause the throat to bleed and asphyxiate, while the tree sap induces those who touch it into choking others.

These are merely illustrative examples of the convergence of necromancy with the demonic. It is thus a case of overlapping traditions between the demonic cults, on the one hand, and witches who come from a heritage of using dangerous plants. Much as alchemy makes use of the properties of plants in general, much darker forms of alchemy use mutant flora and more extrachthonic substances. Corrupting them with exposure to dark essences may be done intentionally. But it is a "natural" source of hazards in the wastelands with their weak veils and hellgates.

(2) Witches

While the dark religions and older demonic cults of the southern wastelands held their own ritualistic traditions of the black arts, there was also the "black magic" born of the folk magic that had descended out of druidism. These witches were the malicious counterparts of the cunning folk, and the folk healers, who engaged in sympathetic magic and dark empathy. Blood magic in the forms of sympathetic magic, as opposed to such crafts as growing simulacra, were largely born of witchcraft. These were perversions of more nature oriented practices and magic.

There have consequently been distinct branches of witchcraft. There are those which held to the woods, which focus on plants and desecration. There were others who became focused upon the elements. Then there were those of the southern wastelands, who became in league with the demonic and dark essences. It is this last tradition that is most important to the black arts.

Blood Magic

Blood is used in widely diverse rituals of religious magic. It is often nothing more than symbolic. Blood mages are those whose magic uses blood as its confound, it is the mediator of their magic. Blood as cause, not effect. Krolvin are the only major culture with roles for this black art. It is especially useful for necromancy and what may be called "dark empathy." Empathy is the confound of empaths. They are historically related, but empathy is rooted in channeling, not in the blood itself. Blood is a potent medium. It stores magical properties. Troll blood is the most familiar example, often used in low necromancy, with the reanimation of the dead. It may be used as a mere alchemical reagent, or specifying or augmenting factor, among the various branches of orthodox magic. But blood has intrinsic preternatural properties giving it inherent usefulness in the magic of life forces. It is intimately bound with its living source.

There are unliving creatures who hunger for blood specifically, owing to the peculiar deficiencies or depravities of their undeath. In the evolution of witchcraft, it was discovered that the blood of victims was especially useful for making fetishes, such as poppets and voodoo dolls. It was possible to inflict maladies or control victims in this way through blood bonds. It is in some respects a mentalist-channeling hybrid form of sorcery. In the modern synthesis of dark sorcery, victims are remotely bled, transmuting their loss to create blood in the self.

"Blood magic" most often refers to sympathetic magic traditions. Which some will argue are older, in some sense, than the other forms of mortal magic. There were other sources of "wisdom" concerning the potential of working with blood over the power of life, holding out the promise of usurping the role of Imaera in the sphere of Life. These were the traditions of the demonic cults, such as the worshippers of the Shadows. Grishom Stone is the most prominent modern example of a blood mage who believes that within the blood of the living there is power beyond the Arkati. It is important to understand that blood itself is not power, it is instead a host for power, and so tremendous amounts of blood will be able to concentrate great deals of magical energy. Regardless, the historical origins of blood magic were such that it is in the animist tradition, requiring forms of symbolic reciprocity. Blood is given, or taken, at a cost.

Confusion of cause and effect, or the mere inclusion of blood, is at the root of much bad usage. There are many religious uses of blood, whether tribal or rites of the Dark Gods, which may be "magic involving blood." It might even be magic which is affected by the life essence powers inherent in blood. But what is mostly meant by "blood magic" are exploitations of that life power in the blood. Manipulating it with the energies of magic and spellcraft is inherently sorcerous, and deeply corrupting, for much the same reasons soulcrafting is with the spirit. It is not in general something that is codified into rote magic. While it is not necessary to use dark essences in blood magic, it very easily seduces toward the practices of black magic.

There are those who purport to do "good" blood magic, using only blood freely given, and so indirectly related to the empathic arts. There are potentially other uses, such as scrying, or binding the powers of others. Tainting the life power in blood, or corrupting it with poisons or foreign blood, will allow unholy desecrations for twisting the living. Blood may be used to store the power of dark essences. The "black blood blight" of the witch Raznel, a plague which only afflicted half-elves and half-krol, was rooted in the venom-blood of primal demons.

Demon blood may have intense concentration of dark power. It was for this reason Raznel was harvesting it. It was collected into blood marble, a material formed from the mass deaths of the Dwarven miners of Talador from 5094, which was made into an obelisk which essentially exploded. This was how the Barony of Talador was transformed into the Bleaklands, the soil of which is now essentially blood. Though the precise formula of the black blood blight is not known, it is thought to include blood from the iguanoid savages, as well as venom from the pale arachnids of the Southron Wates. What is salient in this is that the southern witchcraft had incorporated the use of demon blood and that of aberrations or abominations. There was a cross-mixing of traditions, so that blood magic of witchcraft was blended with that of demon worshippers, and the transformation curses of witchcraft would be adapted into the disease curses of Despana.

Dark Empathy

Witches have a well earned reputation for turning into grotesque, disease ridden hags, corrupted with darkness potentially to the point of living undeath. They may wear glamors of youth. Most often illusions of their victims, made from their blood after killing them. They often have corrupting powers and mediating vermin inside their own bodies. One of the aspects of their sympathetic magic tradition that makes witches so dangerous is their ability to invert or spread their own afflictions. They will give others their tumors, blights, and diseases. Perhaps leeching the life forces from their victims in this way to sustain themselves. They may project their pain and suffering onto others, and will often have gnarled and hideous minions.

The witch will often have a host of vermin, such as venomous worms and insects. The Tasig-heqi or "weaver-witches" of the Sea of Fire are feared for their control of swarms of spiders. They will have a sympathetic magic influence of charming over wildlife, regardless of whether or not they are witches of the black arts. Witchcraft has ancestral roots in common with empathy. It was the folk healers of traditional medicine, with its corresponding of shared forms, which evolved into the practice of transferring wounds from the bodies of others onto the self.

One witch hunter journal from the ruins of Ziristal speaks of slaying a coven in 3,763 of the Modern calendar, which was hiding in what would in a later millennium be known as the Murkwood of Talador. When the witches were injured with weapons, those same injuries would be transferred to those who struck them. They would stab themselves as living voodoo dolls, after drawing blood from the hunters, inflicting those wounds instead on their pursuers. It was necessary to have a highly anti-magical witch hunter burn them to death, which made the building burst into flames and collapse on him. While this bears obvious roots in common with empathic "transference," thaumaturgists regard "empathy" as bound up in Life, calling its dark mirror instead the confound of "thanatology." Later, these hunters all suffered illnesses, which killed their wives. It is written their stillborn children became undead in the womb and clawed out.


Fetishes in the black arts of necromancy came from a few historical traditions. There were the totems of the animist religions, such as the tribes in the southern wastelands. There was the discovery of cursed bindings of spirits to death objects by cultists. Then there were the fetishes of the witches, who were pushed out of civilization by the Elven Empire. With the advent of the sympathetic magic of witchcraft, and to some extent black shamanism, the use of fetishes with the dark essences of the wastes would find profound use in the black arts. It is the way of dark fetishes to exploit the susceptibility of inanimate matter to cursing. When the spirits or bodies of the victims are bound, this link is then cursed into a more material anchor.

It would become the way to control the true undead in multiplicity, by binding them "spiritually" to fetishes. This was one of the precursors to phylacteries, which bind the power of liches across distances, as well as artifacts for raising many undead. Though the true origins of the Book of Tormtor may never be known, this tradition was critical to the rise of Despana.

There was a diaspora of black arts practitioners following the Undead War. Witches from the southern wastelands, whether displaced in the war or freed by the collapse of the Elven Empire, would wander north to the mannish lands to the west of the DragonSpine. The Age of Chaos was what it was in no small part due to these western witches. There was a spread of their more dark and dangerous methods, which would come to blend into the covens which had remained in the north. Witches such as the Sisters of Blight are now seen engaging in the black arts.

(3) Dark Spirit Calling

Animist religions are something of a scholarly fiction, for it is a metaphysical worldview, more foundational than any specific religion or set of beliefs. It is the disregard or denial of the idea that there is a distinction between inanimate and animate matter. The Tehir fear the impurity of gold, which threatens to steal their soul. Arrows must be treated with respect, or they will refuse to guide themselves. Folk religion has survivals of some of these instincts. Witches have their sympathetic magic, and witch-doctors purport to be able to cure it. There may also be more pantheistic religions. Krolvin believe other gods are lesser manifestations of Khar'ta, while trolls worship the Earth Mother with a mountain paradise called G'bruk.

With the surviving "animist" religions or cultures, the shaman is something like a healer-priest. "Shaman" is similarly a fictional word. There are more specific words for it in the many indigenous languages. These are often cultures which are considered barbaric by Elven or even human standards. They might engage in bloody sacrifices of animals, or even their own, such as if they come into the belief that the body parts of people with certain birth defects have special useful powers. But there is something worse. Which we might call black shamanism.

Black Shamanism

There is most often a fear or superstition against magic in these cultures, even as they accept the necessity and value of their religious and healing magic. While the krolvin have in the past had periods where blood mages held relatively high station, and in recent years the stormcrows of Glaeve have gained higher status, blood magic has been largely banned and taboo in the centuries after the destruction of Imranith. The Quladdim are brutal cannibals, but are fearful of dark magic. The Tehir are wary of "plaguebringers," even as the shamans are heroes. This is, of course, less true of elven druidism. However, it is very difficult in general to speak cohesively of such cultures, as they are hostile to outsiders and mostly use oral history.

However, in the southern wastelands the shaman tradition took on darker forms, and there was such a thing as the black shaman. Shamans will, in a very general sense, try to drive out wicked spirits from the ill. They will enter trance states, acting as a medium for communing with spirits, and performing divination by traversing spiritually or mentally into other worlds. These will vary in their specific details with cultures. But as a crude generalization and archetype, the shaman is a spirit caller, who interacts with the surrounding spiritual forces.

With the black shaman all of this is much darker and twisted. They will negotiate and make deals with wicked spirits. They will heal the sick by sacrificing the life of someone else, most often someone of lower status, such as a servant of the ill. This soul will be offered to the wicked spirit to spare the sick. If the spirit is thought to refuse the offer, with both the sick person and the sacrifices dying, more must die to appease the spirit. When the sick become better, neighbors are still fearful, for they might be the price. There is a belief the black shaman will consume the soul of the sick, and replace them with an imitator who suffers from a broken mind. The souls of the black shamans will fight and try to devour each other.

They are also known for implanting parasites into victims, and working through the applying of aberrant flesh such as qahzumar tentacles, which act as mediating confounds to increase their power over the hosts. These may be "prepared" with tainted substances such as demon blood. It is a perversion of "leeching," one of the traditional medicine methods of bloodletting.

These sorts of beliefs and practices would become much more dangerous in places near the hellgates. Wicked spirits would include wraiths and even the demonic, and they would call upon the abominations of the wastelands, and channel the tainted dark powers of those lands. There are tales of black shamans with transmogrified mouths, shadowy maws of tendrils and teeth, who are able to swallow their unconscious victims into infernal realms. Tribesmen will refuse to sleep if there is word of a black shaman, out of fear they will become more easily consumed.

Though it is the Tehir practice in the Sea of Fire to immediately bury the dead, and a hatred of vultures as soul eaters, in the southern wastelands this is an invitation to possession by non-corporeal undead. In the South they will instead often engage in excarnation rituals, cutting the flesh away from the dead, or sacrificing it to the birds or darker beasts. The black shamans as tribal psychopomps would be involved in this process. With their mastery of the dark energies in those places, and their spirit calling, they would be responsible for bringing forth skeletal undead. Harrowing the spiritual worlds for the black shaman often means through the hellgates, the realms of nightmares, or even the demonic such as the Shadow Realm.


Possession is one of the very oldest issues in dealing with the spiritual realm. Ghosts or restless spirits, whether jealous or vengeful, may possess the living. The non-corporeal undead will also sometimes possess and animate corpses. More generally, the animist cultures or folk religions will believe their illnesses and emotive states or luck is caused by spirits, and so calling upon them for aid or warding them off is important. Madness is often interpreted as possession, whether it is or not. The afflicted are often those who have been traumatized. It is rather common for individuals to fake possession so they may become the center of attention, or be given gifts, as well as collusions like communal ritual dances or mass hysterias.

Nevertheless, spirit possession is very real, and may have supernatural symptoms. Much as the non-corporeal undead may gain novel powers when possessing constructs, the living may have a power they cannot control. In the wastelands and places with weaknesses in the veil to more infernal realms, the more wicked "spirits" might actually be non-corporeal demons. While demons may be pulled materially through tears in the fabric of reality, with mere weaknesses or thinning of the veil they may be conjured in a more necromantic way like summoned spirits.

This is unremarkable and belies the misleading implications of the terms necromancy and demonology. Tearing a rift into a netherworld and tethering wraiths, pulling them through to our own world as physical bodies, would be "demonology" with the undead. Much as forcing the non-corporeal undead into materiality is demonology, as it is used in the conventions of sorcery.

Demonic possession by oculoths or even noxious gasses derived from their venom will eject the consciousness into a realm of darkness. The possessed will then violently lash out and try to kill those around them. There are situations where the demonic may haunt a place as a non-corporeal power, such as the case of the Demon Lord of Bonespear Tower. Utter possession by demons is much like spirit possession. It was the practice of shaman religions to "exorcise" unwanted spirits, such as by learning their true names, or by forcing possession by other more helpful spirits. In the dark wastes this would become twisted by black shamans into the intentional infliction of demonic possession. This was sought for more voluntarily by demonic cultists.

Among such spiritualist traditions the wicked spirits are often characterized in elemental terms, such as made of fire and air, or manifestations of cold and darkness. There are corrupted fey of the elements, and elementally attuned demons of more infernal realms. Those of the darkness are especially easy to conflate with tainted non-corporeal undead. Much as the shamans would make themselves possessed with spirits for the sake of divination, or mediation with higher powers, in the darker religions that would come to be done with demonic "spirits."

This kind of medium practice would also be twisted in witchcraft, and would find its way back to the East. Occult societies of esotericists would seek more immediate apprehension of cosmic knowledge through demonic possession and dark summons for mental contact. Cultists in the South would perform such dark rites as unholy consecrations, anointing themselves with the presence of malevolent forces. Nor was this necessarily sufficient. They might seek to make the living into hosts for the dark forces, so that those bodies would transform into abominations, and so ultimately gestate and birth into more hideous vessels. There have also been outsiders which are of the flesh, such as Nershuul, who parasitically "possessed" hosts through the brain.

Dark Scrying

Divination may be distinguished between "superstitious wish fulfillment" and methods of theurgical or astral magic which "work" in some fashion. Occultism works from this vantage point. In the animist cultures there is no such distinction, as there are spirits in all things and they hold secrets. Scrying may take on various purposes. Most often in common usage, the word means summoning spirits to locate or witness something, often by providing a vision of it. More generally, scrying will attempt to gain information from the spirits, often relying upon a medium with some transparency. These might be seer stones, or bowls of water, or crystal balls. The medium might even be a living host who is possessed by the spirit to one extent or another.

This information may be whatever is thought to be known by spirits, whether prophecies or revelations of truths, or even sources of guidance and inspiration. Seers will try to know the past or future, or have visions of the present. There are many forms of such "-mancy" in divination, and necromancy began as divination of souls of the dead. There are those who read impressions into vague visual patterns, or interpret objects such as blood spatter or casting colored stones, or witnessing omens in the flight of birds and having spirit visions while dreaming.

Needless to say, there is actual magic involving the spirits, which makes some of it real. Witchcraft and black shamanism, and dark religions, would take these in more sinister directions. Instead of imagining significance into glowing embers and smoke patterns, they might burn the sacrificial victims with hot coals to read wounds. Thus, there are much darker counterparts to these notions, as well as wards or spiritual violences. There may be wards which make the scryer's eyes bleed, or trap their spirit in a dangerous maze, or give them false visions. There are doomsayers who are masters of such torment and dissembling. There are all manners of curses of this kind. In one of the transformed victims of Raznel, the mind was buried in a maze of traumatic memories, bridged by esoteric doorways. Breaking his curse would have killed his former lover through a blood bond. Victims may be plunged fully into nightmare comas, or witness horrific visions in reflective surfaces, or be plagued with visions of their deaths from choices. They may witness more horrific forms of the same places and not know what is reality.

There are harbingers who seeks out doom visions as guidance for bringing ruin and ill-fortune to the world around them. These might involve hallucinogens and exposure of the mind to demons or highly disturbing eldritch vistas. Cultists in the wastelands are often revelators of realms of pain and darkness. They might seek to dream walk in a more necromantic fashion into the infernal realms, or the demonic valences which are too dangerous for physical travel. Harrowers of this kind go where demonologists of the Extrachthonic Cartographer's Guild cannot.

Necromancers in this sense will try to possess other beings, including extraplanar entities, to know and control them from within. They will seek to learn the demonic languages and consort with such dark powers, as well as to master the esoteric gateways between realities. This is similar to the more familiar astral projection, except in places where the veil is weak or torn with respect to demonic realms, allowing the necromancer to travel where they would ordinarily be incapable of reaching. They seek to take on the manifestations or even incarnations of the other worlds. Occult philologists hold similar interests, seeking to know the runes embedded in all such veils, as such barriers are only the interphases of differing modes of reality.

In this same fashion there are those who seek to possess others in this world. Dark spirit callers are known for possessing the wild beasts and aberrations of those lands, such as tribesmen who will ride the wasteworms, or will assault others through the medium of a monstrous body. The cultists will attempt to make contact with deeply buried horrors, such as the dead Ur-Daemon or malevolent snares and prehistorical ruins. They will seek to acquire parapsychic imputation of forbidden knowledge, and may even worship dark forces through weaknesses in the veils. The divination crystal of Thurfel would feed on souls in exchange for scrying, and was actually a phylactery, which would contain the lichly essence and they were able to possess others.

(4) Broken Mirrors

The dark arts of sorcery are those hybrid forms of magic with tainted powers, the more chaotic essences of the infernal realms, which form an inherently cruel mirror of the pure spheres of magic. In this there are black arts which are analogs of pure realms of power, in the sense of the way the energy is manipulated in spellcraft. These are not truly "pure" because the power it uses is inherently alien to this world, unlike the mana of the near planes, and must be hybridized with those essences and of this world in general to form into magical effects.

In truth any such category is little more than a fictional convention, as there are only the heterogeneous practices of the dark orders. But one may distinguish the kinds of magic in these terms, and there is still some value in it. For the sake of simplicity we will focus on four archetypes, and allow all of the variations in familiar spheres to be implicitly reflected.

Dark Mage

Dark mages are those who summon forth the "sorcerous elements" and other "pure" extraplanar essences through weaknesses in the veil. They might wield balefire much as a fire mage does with fire, more solely attuning to the relevant planes as their confound. Thus, the dark mage is a kind of demonologist, in the modern synthesis. The black arts are more personal than Faendryl sorcery. Those whom we might call dark mages will be imbedding the demonic into artifacts, or conjuring analogs of the elementals, and mutating aberrations with exposure to corrupt power. Warlocks are often dark mages, at least in part, such as the Vvrael warlocks with their wielding of anti-mana. They seek not only to wield such energies, but to open the way for them.

For the Faendryl, summoning demons is all about control and keeping them bound, ultimately getting rid of them after they are no longer useful. Dark mages are much more comfortable with the demonic, allowing them to freely enter and roam in the world. They often seek to damage the veil, weakening the barriers between existences. Their ideal is to achieve mastery over physical matter of extraplanar nature, even trying to fashion entities out of cosmic forces, working under the view that the entities of worlds are manifested from their constitutive essences.

One of the seductions of the black arts, or dark sorcery in general, is that they are "easier" than sorcerous or Arcane power. With respect to causing malignant or destructive effects, much of the work is done by the inherent corruption of dark essences, which allows a certain ease with flow magic or fusing incompatible powers. The dark powers in a certain sense "want" to mesh with the more highly ordered essences, which makes it easier for the practitioners of the black arts to accomplish what they are seeking. They are also separate sources of more power. It is not to suggest the black arts are inherently a short cut on thaumaturgical understanding. But their "flow magic" is less difficult, whether from uncrowded patterns or low hanging fruit.

Dark Cleric

Clerics are specifically the pure realm casters who channel the power of deities to whom they are singularly attuned. There are clerics of both the Light and Dark Gods. Those who worship the Lords of Lornon may be dark priests, and may be clerics, but they are not what is meant by "dark cleric." Dark clerics in our sense are necromancers who are attuned to dark godlings or other infernal demonic powers through the veil. The powers they channel are inherently unholy, rather than mildly tainted or corrupted indirectly, having come from the Lornon Arkati.

Thus, the dark clerics are merely channels of those sources of power into this world, similar in a way to the clerics. Their magic is that of undeath, spirit draining, hexes, summoning of wicked spirits, and the dark absolutions of soul destruction. They desecrate rather than consecrate, curse rather than bless. What they cast is inherently tainting and destructive.

Such black channels may be expected to eventually become hollowed out, suffering fits of possession and madness, until they are twisted into "living undead" who are little more than puppets of their masters. With enough weakness in the veil, aspects of the foreign power may be phased into such vessels, where they may gestate within the husk of the dark cleric. In this way the dark priests will sometimes become messianic avatars of the powers they worshipped. In some depraved religions this is even thought of as a form of ascension. Fortunately, this kind of dark priest is incapable of wandering far, due to the limits of reaching through weaknesses in the veil. Unfortunately, they will seek to make hellmouths, as well as more permanent hosts.

Dark Mentalist

From the philosophical perspective of monism, "mentalism" is a misnomer, given that its true focus is self-transformation. It is the manipulation of one's own aura, rather than tapping the external sources of magic, whether the background essence or channeled powers. "Dark mentalism" would be such methods, except performed by dark powers. This is only a half-truth. Such dark essences may be manipulated within the self, provided the wielder has been tainted or transformed with them. Dark mentalism will consist of the black arts of self-transmogrification. It may also include the more infernal forms of astral magic, including dark contacts or transferences, or destructive forms of precognition for guiding the way toward more malignant outcomes.

Those who would physically become more demonic in features, including growths of black wings or monstrous deformities, may be corrupting themselves with dark power and self-manipulating. It is for historical reasons often found among black shamans and aspiring liches. But there are also blood mages and seers, dark savants, who would master others in more sorcerous ways. There are painlords of dark empathy, as opposed to the life destruction of sorcery, which will make all around them suffer the agony and even inflict the mutilations of their own masochism.

Dark mentalism in this sense is closely related to witchcraft and blood magic with demonic substances. Witches will infest themselves with vermin, such as maggots and scarabs, making them manifest out of their own blood. Such vermin lords may spread diseases with them. The witch Raznel was remarkably transforming herself, anchored to her "paragons" transmogrified with demon blood, such that she would be able to project herself as incarnated power. Similarly, hybrids or simulacra born of such metamorphosis may be blood bonded, existing to be controlled or even mentally possessed. Nor is it limited to witchcraft. There are ooze lords who will secrete caustic slime as vile weaponry, for example, and will ultimately become caustic black blobs.

Scourge Mages

In the Southron Wastes there is a kind of "naturalist" practice of the black arts, which in some respects is an overlap of dark mages and black shamanism. Scourge mages are demonic spirit callers as well as breeders of unnatural half-fiends. They will perform a mixture of theurgical demonic summoning and thaumaturgical transmogrification. They engage in dark scrying and will summon "the scourge" to themselves. These tend to be found among the wasteland tribes, and resemble in some ways druids of dark sorcery. They are thought to have arisen from the need to make the wild forces of those lands more docile, if not domesticated, and they are known for controlling others with demonic possession. Most fantastic are the riders of the wasteworms.

Though there are certain resemblances to rangers or druids, such as the calling of swarms and hostile "nature" forces, scourgemages are fundamentally desecrators of their surroundings. They will make bloody and gruesome sacrifices to "infest" or corrupt the land, so that those within it are subjected to curses or malign influences and weakened warding. Their power comes from trying to become one with the infernal forces that taint those lands. Thus, they are often physically debased as aberrations or living undead, becoming lithe and slinky black forms.

Scourge mages may resemble certain branches of witchcraft, but they are more closely related to shamanism. Perverting the instincts of ancestor veneration and reincarnation beliefs, these animists will evade death with possession, transferring their souls into wasteland scourge. Slaying them becomes most difficult, as they must be denied a living vessel, which includes those who are striking them down. Eventually, they will lose their identities and higher consciousness in their new hosts, or effectively become wraiths. This is twisted into the belief that the scourge of the wastes, the undead and the demonic, are the ancestors of the tribes. Assaulting those forces may be treated as attacking the tribe, and they will be offered sacrifices.

(5) Curses

Throughout history an extraordinarily wide and idiosyncratic range of curses have existed. There is little hope of systematically categorizing them all. With even the old classical sorcery there may be "cursing," which is to say the breaking of matter at its metaphysical foundation, as an intentional rather than accidental action. There may be passive spell-like powers that are embedded into the broken essence of this matter. The black arts are much more prone to causing cursed matter, and so symbolic hexing would come to actually be real in dark magic.

Though sorcery in its oldest definition might inflict "disease" by immediately assaulting the flesh, where the body would form the malady, these were not truly diseases like those spreading in nature itself. Cursing the flesh might make it permanently diseased, but even this is not contagious. Plaguelords would take this a step further and spread contagions through curses.

It is this kind of nuance which makes it difficult to be comprehensive with curses. The witchcraft or animist traditions and dark religions might inflict curses, what might be called black magic and possibly even unholy, but these are not necessarily part of what we mean by the black arts. Those tainted powers are much deeper violations of the natural. In this way there may be living creations of blood magic, which are seemingly normal, but more truly are profoundly vile perversions. Regardless, we will attempt to loosely categorize several kinds of "cursing," which have arisen through history. This is little more than a convention for classifying the ways they work, as they have spontaneously and independently been devised in many sources.


Marks are figurative or literal imprints in a thing which will host the power of a curse or provide a future channel for it. These might be strange glyphs or runes in a forbidden place, or they might be tattoos or brands, or even symbols burned into the mind or soul. It will often be hylomorphic corruption, debasing the forms of matter. Literal marks may lead to the marked being transformed in some way, such as the flesh rotting into some kind of undeath, or they might "deepen" in their hold into increasing power over victims and control of their will. The Lichborn who were cursed by Barnom Slim were marked on their flesh. This was a glowing red claw-shaped mark carved into them, and the curse would gradually deepen and taint them.

"Bonds" are a more abstract form of mark of this kind. Soul taint is one way that more sinister and dark orders will enforce loyalty or secrecy on their members or thralls. This will allow them to strip away powers, force obedience when called upon, or be targeted with summoned pursuers such as dark assassins. Blood mages often require or manipulate blood bonds from others. Though we often speak of curses as malignant and deleterious effects, they are also the source of powers or wards against others. Marks may protect the host with borrowed power.

Marks might also be more accidental in nature, which will attract various kinds of beasts or wicked forces. "Trails" might be cursed into the victim, so that they are instinctively pursued, or else will draw forth specific things. Wihliam of Oire was an unusual case of this in 5118, having been cursed in the formation of the Bleaklands. He was frozen in a temporal bubble as he played his harp in the face of the impending fires. These discordant echoes would then lead to him appearing in Solhaven, much like a paragon projection, drawing forth wild animals much as if he were a pied piper kind of undead. The "marking," so to speak, was his cursed harp. In contrast, when Lady Larsya Caulfield of Bourth was time frozen in a bane coffin, the epochxin venom-blood within her was a trail. The "scent" of it attracted swarms of ebon-swirled primal demons in the Southron Wastes, when she was brought there to act as a beacon for them.


Hexes are curses which arise from the immediate or direct casting of spells. Witches might instead "hex" a fetish which has been marked to their victim, thus hexing the poor soul through their mark. Regardless, the hexes may be delivered in numerous ways, which might be given names. This will only be our own convention, as ordinary usage of these words is inconsistent. The effects of the curse may be relatively arbitrary, but certain methods are prone to tendencies. It would be futile to try to categorize by symptoms, as hexing is most often flow magic.

To give a sense of their variety, consider some examples. One curse may liquify the skeleton within the body, while another melts away the flesh, until there is only a skeleton. The soul is set ablaze with mawfire, immolating the body from the inside out. The rib cage is transmogrified into tentacles, the blood becomes acid, the eyes are clawed out to rip into the brain.


Imprecations are hexes that are inflicted from tripping a warding. These may come from runes or glyphs on a dark monument or tomb, or some more intangible field in a given place. It will be as though the hex were cast in that moment by a witch, and will have to be warded off by the victim. With the animists these might be much more subtle or less familiar. It may be that the interloper is passively hexed by trespassing on foot tracks, "stepping on cracks" and "crossing lines," or other such superstitions made real. Dark wards, in general, are imprecations.


Maledictions are what we call hexes which derive their sympathetic power from words. Most remarkably, there is the power of knowing the "true names" of things, which allows control over the will. This is a mystical notion of the spirit realm, but it is deadly serious in the black arts. Invoking the name of the Vishmiir would summon them to the speaker, who would not be bound in any way, causing much danger and death to all those around. It was in knowing their true name in ancient elven that they were banished. In this same fashion a malediction is a hex which uses this power over spirits, such as the souls of the living. Maledictors may also act as spiritcallers for wicked forces, where a malediction will summon wicked spirits to the cursed.


Malisons are acts of dark prayer for wishing, or rather channeling, the favor of malign powers to inflict curses on the victim. These are the hateful counterpart of orisons, which are dark or dishonest prayers of love, seeking to mislead or torment. Such nymph-like or fey charming takes on more malevolence in the black arts. Malisons will charm others to horrific ends.


Those who are "damned" have a curse upon their soul, and so inhering in some vice or sin. Damnation will lead the poor unfortunate soul to ruin and misfortunes. It might also cause them to become undead after their deaths, or mark them to be taken later by some dark power. As with malisons, these are useful for distorting perception, or blinding seers in its teleology.


Execrations are angry denunciations with religious origins. It is similar to the act of "damning" a soul, except it is broadened to a wider group. The prophecy of Noi'sho'rah is a familiar example of it, promising the fall of empires and fire from the heavens. Curses of this kind seek to punish the behavior of others by making them suffer some high price based on meaning.

Evil Eyes:

Evil eyes are malevolent glares which make an assault on the soul of the gazed. These may provoke terror or misfortune, injury or even instant death. Folk healers would devise thanot charms to aid in its protection, turning the evil eye back on the witch. This would come to be twisted into curses which summon dark forces into inescapable and violent contests of will. Thanot berries are unusual in that opposite their stalks, they form a tiny five-pointed star. The use of thanot in warding charms was most likely the origin of pentagrams in summoning circles.

Star Curses:

With the historical roots of black magic in folk religion, with its astrology and divination, there is such a thing as a "star curse." There is a teleological linkage in the self with the orientations of celestial bodies and constellations at the time of birth. While the superstition is perhaps hollow, teleologic corruption is real, allowing hexers to empower themselves on the misfortunes or deaths of others. While this is in one sense spiritual or astral, there are also "lunar" or celestial modalities, and such fusions involve very real premonitions.


Fetishes are material mediations for hexes that descend historically from superstitions with totems and idols. With black magic which actually works, there is some way of binding the victim to the fetish, marking them in some way. In this case the mark is opening a channel for hexing or manipulating them later. Voodoo dolls or poppets are made to inflict damage or control over specific aspects of the body. Curse tablets would instead summon evil spirits as maledictions. Hex bags would be used to remotely inflict curses, unless the victim found and destroyed it.

Black Channels

Black channels are curses which are inflicted as instant channeling effects, similar to absolution, which are instant fatal channels that slay the victim. They are essentially acts of will, much like the more familiar sorcerous power of "sacrifice." While hexes are acts of spellcraft, so that the curser is attempting to themselves control the effect, with the black channels it is instead inflicted through the curser. Some other dark force or power is called upon, acting through the curser directly, and so the curses will be idiosyncratic to those powers.

This may also be the means by which a summoner will suddenly and abruptly conjure forth some wrath of dark forces. This is the province of dark religions, and often is in some tainted form as a black art. But it might be done as more ordinary sorcery with use of surrounding spirits, which is channeled through to the target and whose essence is manipulated and cursed. One of the most familiar of these is the so-called "hex curse," which weakens the will or resistance, and though it is cast as a spell it is a black channel that more or less cannot be warded.


Transformations are consequences of curses, unless the curse itself is transmogrification. Strictly speaking, it may be a thing turned into another thing, whether object or person. While our focus is often on the living and dead, curses will also be imparted into inanimate matter. Swords might transformed into snakes. It is a curse when the transformation is rigid, and will resist being turned back. With more animate matter we may speak of "transformations" as something reversible, though the specific way to cut that knot may be very difficult to reach. In the situation of the orc curse of Raznel, it was bound with an esoteric doorway in a mind within Thrayzar, which was sealed with the yellowed bone talisman that cursed him with yellow mist. It is somewhat arbitrary at what point of difficulty curses may be regarded as irreversible. But when it is held by a linchpin, which may be pulled, it is a curse that may be "released."

There are more perverse transformations of "tainting" and metaphysical debasement that are more or less irreversible. When these are the result of antinomic corruption, which is exposure to incompatible laws, the result is often "living undead" or aberrations. Hylomorphic corruption of the forms of matter instead tends to be transmogrifications such as abominations. There are also transformations involving the mind or soul, or perhaps even the brain, which are more spiritual involving teleologic corruption of meaning or purpose or more abstract cosmic forces. In one especially interesting mystery, xazkruvrixis holds immediate power over the life and death cycle, and great amounts of it in Miirta Jzen may have mutated sapience in the Paerdyne.


Desecration is the dark analog of rituals and religious rites of consecration. Whenever something might be "blessed," it might be cursed instead. This is very ancient and has myriad roots in dark religions, or twisted debasements of more benign ones. Witches of the wild woods might desecrate a sacred grove, making it the heart of a haunted forest for dark creatures. Sinister and malevolent priests might "consecrate" tortured bodies, and even the altars, in unholy oils or foul fluids in ritual sacrifices. Desecration is the debasing of holy and life essences. One of the most infamous examples of this in recent years was the first Griffin Sword War in 5096, when several of the Dark Gods attempted to forever desecrate a temple of Lorminstra, which is consecrated with her own power much like the focus of a local god.

It was an attempt to curse the temple by desecrating her power, using part of her very own power against itself, which would have had far more reaching ramifications. While it is possible to commit more localized desecrations, what they are most distinctly is the corruption of whole places. These might be as small as haunted houses, or the intentional "dark magic" twisting a forest, or even the apocalyptic wastelands. When this involves highly tainted powers, such as with demon blood, there will be taint by exposure and undeath. Deeply corrupted places may be virtually impossible to heal.


Loosely speaking, we may refer to the curses that are imbedded into inanimate objects as "disenchantments," which may or may not be dispelled similar to enchantments. The sorcerous art of "ensorcelling" is not a disenchantment, though it is closely related, as it is only a layering of necrotic energy. This power comes from death, but is related to animus, not the soul. It is not cursed, and not unholy, but inflicts "unnatural" rejuvenations of life forces. Disenchantments are instead the breaking of the constitutive essence of matter, and though this will be an "unholy" state, it may or may not involve tainting with dark powers. But it is possible to "disenchant" items by imbedding them with dark magic or spirits, demons, and souls of the dead.

Thingul was infamous in recent decades for fashioning the finest swords, which would suddenly break later, having sacrificed souls in their forging. There are wraiths who come into being from being stabbed by cursed blades. The "blue suffer" poison contagion that killed only krolvin was coated on daggers which easily crumbled. Such weapons are often highly fragile, due to the intense corruption of their matter. Other metals such as black ora and urglaes are naturally cursed and have inherent dark powers. Weapons in the Undead War would inflict unhealing and incurable rotting wounds, and more recently, the witch Raznel was known to have made such blades. There was a case where this rot was "cured" with possession by a bleakwalker, highly anti-magical and "undead" variants of darkness elementals, as well as having kroderine shards cursed into the flesh. This is an unusual kind of cursing, similar to Mandis crystal poisoning.

(6) Parasitism

One of the hallmark behaviors of the black arts, especially by the undead and the "living undead," is the leeching of something else to empower or revitalize themselves in some way. This will be some form of energy, or in some cases more material, such as blood or other kinds of cannibalism. In the more innocuous cases it might be sources of ordinary "mana," except drawn on by the practitioner, rather than spells ripping mana from targets. Dark catalysts are not what we mean, where the aura is destabilized, drained and spontaneously erupting into elements. It is similar in that the greater the power of the victim, the more vulnerable they are to the negative effects. Dark catalysts also differ in being warded off predictably in normal ways.

What is meant are acts of immediate channeling like the "sacrifice" absolutions by necromancers. In this case it is the animus confound, converted through necrotic energy. It might instead be a siphoning of spirit, or blood, or other potencies. The more corrupt the form of leeching, the more it will debase the leecher, ultimately ending in forms of parasitic dependence. This is more or less the "leech" becoming attuned to what they siphon. As with attunements in general, this is a source of both strength and weakness. But leeches are more truly addicts.


Often is heard the wishful thinking or fantasy fulfillment of the agnostic or atheist cleric, who insists his power comes from within or by his faith alone, or that he is truly drawing the power around the Arkati rather than having it given to him. While the Great Spirits are indeed usually not consciously aware of the use of their power by their followers, or at least are indifferent to it, the very spells are channeled through the cleric from them. There is some source of it, whether or not the cleric knows what it is, but it is not of their own will. The religious monks who engage in magic with their own essences are what are now called mentalists, and this kind of spellcraft does not resemble the magic of clerics in the slightest.

Those who truly do siphon off the gods are not clerics at all. They may instead be called ur-priests. Ur-priests must take pains to draw from given deities in only relatively small amounts, in order to not draw the divine wrath of an angered god. What they are really doing is leeching holy power with dark sorcery, which is deeply corruptive and turns them into parasites. The ur-priests are usually isolationists, arising spontaneously from paths of hubris by a cleric or sorcerer. Initially this is to avoid detection, but they become threats to each other.

While on the surface there may be a resemblance to clerical magic, it will be non-denominational in its manifestation. Wielding this kind of spiritual energy as though it were part of the background essence, or within one's own aura, is a sorcerous fusion or cutting against the grain of the realms of power. By its "inner" nature of being brought through the self, this will inevitably corrupt the ur-priest, who becomes physically dependent on feeding off this power. Ur-priests will end up stealing the intrinsic magic or spell-like abilities of other beings, especially spirits or the living, which they will temporarily be able to wield themselves. They are mostly parasitic on clerics and paladins, which makes them all the more reviled. The term "ur-priest" has muddled etymology. It is partly invoking notions of older magic than the spheres, but also evoking "the Ur" or Ur-Daemon, from their hateful violence against the Arkati.

Soul Eaters

Soul eaters are all of the dark forces who feed upon the spirit of the living. These are most often the non-corporeal undead, liches, and the demonic. However, there are those of the living who will feed on spirit, such as the Sheruvian monks who drain it through weapons. Soul stealing weapons and powers will, in general, not work on the undead. Nor artificial beings. There are necromancers who will rip souls out into storage vessels, using the soul to power their magic, or even for keeping themselves vitalized. Soul siphon abominations survive in the Rift. Soul eaters will become dependent on spirit to keep their own life forces from utterly decaying.

Those of the living who "feed" most literally on the soul have been transformed in some way. They will be among the "living undead," aberrations, or having been transmogrified. This will be the result of tainting by dark power, usually directly or indirectly by demons. There will be Luukosians who feed on the spirit this way, seeking to emulate their Soul Eater god.

Mana Eaters

There are those who try to subsist more directly on magical energies. This is often the result of some plan for achieving lichdom or ascension. There are aberrant creatures or abominations that feed upon mana, such as the sha'rom or myklian lizards, as well as extraplanar beings like the Ithzir. Deeply tainted demonic or manifestations of darkness, such as the Ur-Daemon or the Vvrael, will feed upon the mana of this world and the higher planes. The Vvrael cultists are parasitically dependent on this feeding, and eventually become highly anti-magical.

These kinds of immunities or resistances are a common side effect of feeding upon related forms of mana. Darkness elementals, such as dark vysans and dark vorteces, are striking examples. This is not to be confused with the parasites who might be called "arch leeches." What we mean by "mana eaters" are those who feed on magical energies rather than living confounds.

Mind Eaters

There are astral fiends and nightmares that will feed on the mind, monsters such as the Duskborn of the Red Dreamer, and powerful undead such as the Vishmiir which feed on thoughts. Black shamans are perhaps the most known of the mortal mind eaters. They will often leave broken or even utterly shattered minds in their wake. Kiramon are speculated to have incorporated the minds or brain matter of harvested Aelotoi to expand their own hive mind. The Ithzir have ways of draining the "mind" to transfer its essence to form more bodies for themselves. Trapping the mind in a maze, or a nightmare manifestation of its traumatic memories, is useful for feeding. Much as a life stealer might drain energy through the rapid aging of the victim.

There are flesh harvesters, such as the banaltra for feithidmor, who will induce fugue states. More developed minds or magical power are actually more vulnerable to their fugue. It is not necessarily mediated through physical matter. Various mental or even physiological qualities, such as strength, may be siphoned and fed upon in a "mentalist" or occult fashion. Most often cannibals are relatively mindless savages, especially undead flesh-eaters, but also the living who are overtaken with bloodlust. However, there is a notable exception, proving the rule.

Interestingly, there are human cannibals who will instead eat brains, which once emerged as a twisted ascension ideology. Celestial Cenobites are zealots of Fash'lo'nae who seek to "evolve" by consuming brains, acquiring heightened senses of intelligence and greater powers of mental magic. They are feverishly dependent on it, thus posing a great hazard to each other. They had arisen by accident in Hendoran survivors of the Witch Winter. Hiding within an old Kannalan fortress, they were scattered by imperial soldiers, but still exist now in underground cells.

Life Stealers

One of the most infamous black arts are "youth stealers," or those who siphon life out of sacrifices to extend their own. This is an attempt by some necromancers or murderers to achieve the immortality of living, without becoming undead, or relying on some divine intervention of transcendence or ascension. It will sometimes be significantly more vain, such as a witch who will bathe in the blood of young women, trying to stave off her own deterioration. Blood sacrifices might be used by those who are marked in some way and seeking to evade terrible fates. While empathy is mostly limited to traumatic injuries, blood magic and "dark empathy" may seek to debase aging itself, even transferring "youth" out of victims with spell-like channeling.

Life may thus be siphoned in a direct fashion. Epochxin venom is suspected to be the way primal demons feed, by transferring the whole life of their prey in rapid temporal acceleration. The drain may leave withered or decayed flesh in the victim. Those who become parasitically dependent on this theft will often become predators of children. There have been rare cases of youth returning to victims if the life stealer is killed. Sometimes souls are taken and destroyed to delay aging. There is a great deal of loss. There may only be a gain of two years per soul. It is not necessarily the higher mortals who are fed upon. There are vermin lords who fester in piles of wriggling things, and blight walkers who disease and drain the life of nature. In time soul or life stealers may expect the efficacy to decrease, with their own break down happening more quickly, even in cases such as Thingul's where it was feeding souls into weapons.

It is thought that Melgorehn engaged in this in some form, though possibly as a dark artificer. He would very suddenly and rapidly age, and the more cynical say this for Daephron Illian. In the latter case, he was supposedly a Faendryl, from the time of the Undead War. There is some reason to suspect he also impersonated an Ashrim royal mage named Malaphor, the mage apprentice Tindall, an elven babe who rapidly grew until dying of old age, and posed as a wandering elderly journeyman who died as well. In this last guise the Vvrael scrolls were brought to Anwyn.

Needless to say, the elves are the ideal target of life stealers, who especially revile them. It was once a fair question to ask whether elves ever died of old age, or simply lose the will to live, becoming more vulnerable to illness or first falling to inevitable fatal accidents. Elven monarchs would give birth at thousands of years old. With the gradual admixture of mortal bloodlines into the elven lineages, with the exception of relatively insulated noble houses and uncommon outliers, many elves are quite old in their way after little more than a millennium. Thousands of years hence, elves will be even more mortal from miscegenation and breeding back into the "pure" bloodlines, becoming indistinguishable from what are now called half-elves. Those who still hold the high potentials of longevity, especially sylvans, will become irresistible targets. This will be even worse if the Dark Elves eventually reach the point of total infertility.

Arch Leeches

Closely related to the ur-priests, there is a rare kind of leech deriving its power almost wholly from others, but instead of the gods they are parasites of mortal magic users. They tend to absorb the spells cast at them, and the magical energies of the caster. But more importantly, they will try to tear out their victim's power over magic, acquiring their raw magical ability. This will paralyze even the pure realm spell wielder, whether mage or cleric or savant; or rather especially them, due to their heavy reliance on confounds and attunement. They do not like the taste of dark essences, and attempt to wash their palettes of it. Ur-priest theft is more superficial, akin to a "living spell." Arch leeches rip out the roots of power over magic.

There are limits to all matter, and arch leeches may be killed with tremendous power. They may even burst if overfed. But the isolated mage is in a perilously weak position with them. Arch leeches keep their prey in hidden caverns and "nest" in unknown earthnodes. The prey will most often be members of the more mortal races, who recover more quickly from such draining. It is not understood how they come into existence, whether they make more of themselves, or it is something done to them in the service of a higher power. Fortunately, they are very rare.

When forced to the surface and having to flee from being hunted, the situation is inverted, and they prefer the most powerful elves. While the elves are somewhat less urgent in developing their magical or martial skills, owing to mildly delayed emotional maturity, this is only modestly lagged from the typical human of the same age cohort. Corporeal races all reach a point of saturation, where their powers and abilities may increase only very slowly. However, with the extreme longevity of the elves, the most powerful elves outclass more mortal races. This is at the price of existing in few numbers, needing to have survived long enough. Leeches of this kind will sense to whom the powers of magic are most bound and then hunt them like bloodhounds.

Dark Artificers

Similar to the situation of Thingul, there are black arts which involve souls or other powers embedded in artifacts, which may become a source of reliance to a leecher. One of the prominent examples of recent years were the parasitic Collectors of the Southron Wastes. These are humanoids who wandered into their condition by leeching off powerful relics. They were enamored with the promise of lichdom or ascension, and learned "forbidden magic" for siphoning from artifacts. This has common roots in those seeking artifacts to augment their power for ascension.

What might be called the black art of the dark artificer, or alchemist, there are those who drain power from magical items for themselves. Most fascinating is the case of Uthex Kathiasas, who acquired access to a tremendous power draining dome, and sought to fashion its power into physical forms. Uthex was driven mad with dark corruption from drawing power in this way.

The unnatural mountain known as Melgorehn's Reach is a dangerous monument to hubris. Its creator sought to recharge powerful artifacts with accelerated lunar alignments in a major essence flow that is located several thousand feet off the ground. It is rumored that this recharging was for darker purposes, and the Reach has since been exploited by varied dangerous factions. The Sheruvian Order in particular has a vested interest in both Melgorehn's Reach and Uthex's works, having established a monastery in the Broken Land with a bridge to the Reach summit. It involves the use of ancient monoliths that are intensely anti-magical, with orbs made of veil iron and krodera, which absorb magical power and will violently rip away magic if mishandled.

Dark Hosts

In the black arts there is very often a lack of separation between the wielder and other dark powers. Historically, this is rooted in the ancestral spiritualism of the uncivilized places where they arose, as well as the depravity of religious fanatics. Witches will often act as a medium for foul things or wicked spirits, and warlocks will debase their blood or souls trying to acquire unnatural powers. There are many dark powers that are wielded by the demonic or eldritch horrors, whether in their own worlds or when manifested in ours, and as a rule these are coveted or even fetishized and worshipped. Whatever malevolent form of magical effect is possible from unworldly forces poses the hazard of being possessed instead by some cultist.

While there are dark mages or occultists who engage in theoretical thaumaturgy, this is often instead the result of some vile perversion of the self from binding with dark forces. In this way the warlock is gaining powers through their own aberration or transmogrification, or becoming a black channel for whatever malignancy is reaching through them out of the abyss. Loosely, this is sometimes a transformation of flesh into monstrous forms, but other times it is born of the blood or soul, or a symbiotic fusion or merger to a much more major demonic power.

There have been many variations of this throughout history. Gaping maws of shadowy tendrils in the place of mouths, tentacles sprouting from the head, conjoined bodies and faces forming in the flesh. These are only recent examples of corruption with "shadows." The Palestra Blade who exorcised Althedeus, Aralyte Halanori, was last known to be merged with a pool of blood. The Mayor of Wehnimer's Landing, Walkar Wellington, was transforming into a rotting abomination through bondage to cursed demonic armor. This was a case of suffering from a cannibalistic need for flesh, which was substituted with literal blood fruit. The Grot'Karesh founders after Maelshyve slowly went mad and consumed blood, suffering from nightmare visions, and their very name translates as "Daemon-tainted" or cursed. Though with separation from Maelshyve, or perhaps the Tor, this is much more rare now. There was even a deal arranged with the Dark Alliance during the second Griffin Sword War, in exchange for the quillions, which bound a Dhe'nar woman with shadow entities from an outer valence. A merger which is expected to take a thousand years. The shadow entities are neither undead, nor demonic, but similar in makeup to Sheruvian rapture cloaks. They hunger for the flesh of the living and seek to become "alive" in this living anchor. What is important in this is that merging with entities not only yields powers, it will often break the independence of "self," and warp the host into suffering from unnatural desires.

The highly rarified nature of the black arts, and the deep unknowns of the infinite abyss, means there is a perpetual hazard of encountering the unfamiliar. Much destruction and death may happen while threats are unidentified, and how to counter them is not understood. Possession by the demonic in the Faendryl Empire is preventively treated with confinement to thaumaturgical asylums. While the Faendryl study dark magic by the standards of the rest of civilization, their drive to classify has often been critical to countering dangerous forces of darkness.

VII.C Dark Rituals

The historical origins of the black arts in dark religions and superstitious cultures had led to their practices often being inextricable from rituals. The rites of these brutal traditions would hold a form of orthopraxis, where the rituals must be performed in exacting terms or will fail to have the desired effects. Failures would inherently be blamed on doing it improperly, rather than the ritual itself being flawed. This would in turn form a rigid, rules-like adherence for sympathetic magic practices, along with an evolution of rituals through accidents. The inevitable deviations or mistakes would stumble onto genuine magical effects. With the relative fluidity of flow magic in the dark essences, these mistakes were thus prone to novelty.

These rituals would then survive in dark traditions, tied up as they were in religious trappings. This is in marked contrast to Faendryl sorcery, which strips it all to instrumentalism. But it is important to keep in mind the critical importance of rituals in the black arts. It is more than symbolic, but nearly "rote," because it has so little theoretical understanding. Dark essences are far more alien to this world than ordinary mana. They are not wielded in the same ways. Necromancers may only have a dim idea of how the forces they employ actually work.

(1) Materials

One of the most prominent features of dark rituals is the use of forbidden materials. These might be profane or blasphemous, desecrations of holy items, vile or unclean and so on. What will often happen, over the long course of the history of events, is that once innocuous materials will find some ideal use in wicked acts. In this way they become illegal substances. There are quite a few substances that are illegal in the Turamzzyrian Empire from their use in the black arts of necromancy and blood magic. The most infamous of these is Luukosian deathwort. It has been used in royal assassinations, guaranteeing death and preventing resurrection. Others are much more obscure, such as eelskin oil, which was illegal even before Ghezresh was known.

Blood is among the most prolific materials used in dark rituals. It is quite prominent in the rites of Luukos, Amasalen, Mularos, V'tull, and so on, to say nothing of blood mages of Khar'ta or Althedeus. Flesh or body parts are important for the same reasons, and brutal sacrifices are common, including mutilation and even cannibalism in initiation rites. Unholy metals, cursed items, and exotic trophies are all used. By its very nature, there is little theory of ritual crafting. What has survived as "working" is embedded in theological and cultural traditions.


There are various kinds of materials with intrinsic magical properties, owing to their enchantment or disenchantment. These are what might be called "alchemical" substances, because they are explicitly "magic," in the orthodox sense of theurgy or thaumaturgy. Or else they possess natural qualities, such as nightshade, which have practical usefulness. In the black arts there is frequent use of poisons or venomous creatures, which tend to have obvious and immediate uses in rituals. Much as there are herbs which are endowed by spirit powers with wondrous healing magic, there are also cursed plants, which are aberrations of desecrated places or else hexed. These are as obvious as oozing fleshsore bulbs or as subtle as the apples of Li'aerion.

There are magical properties in inanimate matter as well, most familiarly in stones and exotic metals. Black rituals will often make use of cursed materials such as black ora and urglaes, or the darkly affected, such as with witchwood and despanal. Urglaes is infamous for its inherent powers of transmogrification. Ritual blades or vessels may be meant for holding sentient forces. It is important to note that ritual items might themselves be cursed with ritual magic. Much as herbs might be prepared to be more potent, they can be twisted with dark magic.

Sovyn cloves have the potential, for instance, to wholly restore the missing limbs of cripples. In the gnarled hands of a witch it might instead be hexed, so that the bodies keep sprouting more limbs, which will be deformed and vestigial. It will finally seem to have stopped, only for the limbs to gruesomely split apart, as more hideously grow within them. This is so much to say that the intrinsic magic of matter may be warped and debased into more vile or dangerous forms. Entheogens are typical of dark rites, especially in rituals involving visions, or scrying and forms of possession. In the tropics this is often done with the skin of poisonous frogs, who feed on beetles which eat toxic fungus, while in the desert the tribesmen use hallucinogenic cactus and scorpion venom. The black arts use substances which inflict more horrific visions, such as dreamdeath lichen or oblivion quartz, cut with dust from carnivorous dreamvines.


In contrast to these "alchemical" materials, black rituals will have aspects of sympathetic magic, which by its nature involves more implicit forces. Something might be used because it has the right shape or color. The ritual might leverage off the symbolic meaning the material has in the culture of the victim or the dark religion itself. As such, the "mimetic" materials are used in esoteric, rather than exoteric magic. This introduces deep uncertainty as well as some unreliability or unpredictability. Luukosian rites might only work for the Luukosians, even if Luukos himself was never involved. In the interpretation of more orthodox thaumaturgy, this is because of the conceptual nature of astral realms. It is magic making superstition real.

There is unavoidably a confluence of intrinsic and extrinsic qualities in these rituals. Rituals often must be performed under certain orientations of the constellations in the sky, or else during eclipses, or even unusual celestial alignments. These events have very real impacts on the veil and the flows of essence, and one might meaningfully define such energies as "lunar mana," and construct spell circles on its waxing and waning effects. The trouble is that there is also a sympathetic aspect to this, with magic caused by the very beliefs in astrology.

With only a little reflection one might realize that the orientation of a constellation at any given time depends on where you are located. Those born at the same time in far flung places will not be born under the same stars. With the constellations there is a great deal of variation with cultures, much as two people will see different shapes in the same clouds. Even then the astrologer will hold to some pretense of widely recognized constellations across cultures and treat the zodiac as an objective universal. But the constellations of the northern sky only partly overlap those of the southern hemisphere, which has its own constellations that are not seen at all from Elanith. These are always present, if only out of the direct line of sight. Meanwhile at the far northern and southern poles, which have no overlap with each other, the same constellations only rotate in constant view. Auroras become far more significant.

The affective nature of folk myths and beliefs is present in matter which is not marked for having obvious inherent magical effects. Larkspur has been used in hex dolls to inflict temporary madness on the victim due to Zelian legend, while alyssum might be used for the severely disturbed, for no other reason than the historical accident of being named Sheruvian madwort. It is in this way cinquefoil has been used for affecting the untimely demise of half-breed children, or lavender for bonds of mind thralldom, and bluebells for keeping the undead reanimated.


What most often immediately distinguishes the black arts from more benign ritual magic is the use of blood and bones or flesh from living sacrifices. While it is possible a religious rite might only use these in a purely symbolic way, the black arts involve manipulating life forces and essences with dark energies. The distinction of white and black magic, without this taint, is more dubious. It has not held in all times and places. The Tehir spiritcaller Akhash, for example, made a ward pact with Estrion's ghost. This guarded Wehnimer's Landing from much darker magic. He once inscribed sigils into a black orb that siphoned spirit. He also broke the cursed troll form of Drangell, using a witch killing blade, along with troll blood and body parts.

This last case is instructive, as no aspect of it was directly from Drangell himself, and Akhash cut the air around Drangell with the blade to pull back the troll form. Drangell was only pinned down with crystallized flame shards from his former prison stuck into his flesh. Otherwise this was channeled and sympathetic ritual, but also blood magic with trolls. Nevertheless, it was not the black arts, not truly even the blood magic. There is more power of a kind in making use of the blood or flesh of sapient and fully sentient beings in these dark rituals.

The blood or flesh will often be used as a confound in the ritual magic. With black shamans this will be such things as the body parts of aberrations, such as qahzumar tentacles, which were scorpions somehow cursed of dark sorcery in the doom of Bir Mahallah. Witches may use all sorts of mediating vermin, such as maggots and ichor worms, which they keep inside their own body. The witch Raznel was particularly fond of scarabs as her "babies," and her body would undulate as she ritual chanted, with all the grotesqueries moving about within her. Her own blood was mixed with others in scarabs, taken from her own body, often made of dark substances such as blood marble and bleakstone. This is much analogous to phylacteries, which are often bone.

(2) Counter-Magic

Knowledge of these intricacies has historically been important to witch hunters, which we sometimes mean literally, but more generally are using it as a blanket term for vigilantes against dark forces and monsters. The ritual magic that is used for making dangerous things, whether the undead or monsters of teratology or even dangerous artifacts, will be deeply embedded within a host of meanings and incantations and evocations and special properties from materials and summoned forces. The relevance of this is that knowing to some extent how these things were made is often key to destroying them. Weaknesses may be identified this way. Witch hunter manuals, which are a kind of anti-grimoire, are littered with rumors of how to kill dark forces.

These will range from rites of exorcism, folk superstitions from many cultures for dispelling ghosts, proscriptions on bad methods, and weirdly specific minutiae for making slaying weapons. This is more involved than many hunters of the undead, such as the more cavalier of the Order of Voln, who focus on striking down the unliving and only assuming they remain smited forever. This comes with the same hazard posed to all who delve into dark knowledge. There is temptation and seduction. Its potential for being used for good, which corrupts the good into evil.


"Be they knownst as Rougarou, the Dire or Werwulf, or Besteal Fiends. Thou must takest Three parts Hemlock and Wulfsbane, upon Preparations of Virgin Blood of the Kid, and Doth Consecrate a Bodkin of Silver. Lest this Concoction be Impotent of Holy Smiting it mayest call for Black Humours of a Comely Victim of the past Fortnight. Strike upon the Occl'sion of the Dark Moon in the House of Death, or else Midnight or Witch's Hour upon the Foul New Moon passed the Vernal Equinox..."

- "White Wards and Afflixions in Almanack: Revulsions off Black Magicks of Witches, Monstrous Abominations, Vap'rus Apparitions and Fiends Most Detestable"
Witch hunter manual, 4253 Modern Era
Found near the ruins of Kedshold

Hunters have historically looked to common folk myths for hidden truths on how to prevent or forever slay monsters. While much of this is nonsense and purely made up legend, for the hunter as with the occultist, the truth of the myth is not in immediate factual correctness. The literal word may betray points of preternatural value for the slaying of monsters. Now, most often it is enough to strike down a foul thing, vanquishing it through force of arms. But there are more pernicious threats, especially among the living undead, which defy most grievous wounds or will succour in some dark isolation. Most familiar are the trolls, who most often must be burned or overwhelmed with concussive force, the greatest of which survive even decapitation.

Nevertheless, those more rare or even unique monsters who were born of dark rituals may not be so easily destroyed, requiring multiple deaths or even special methods for keeping them down. Certain most extreme methods are most common in slaying such beasts. Decapitation or impaling the spine through the neck may subvert their dark empathy. Vulnerabilities to contrary elements may be manifest, but ideally, there are counters to ritual aspects of their creation. In this way they may be weakened by song, holy water, brass, herbs, sunlight, or whatever else.

Immolation is most often useful for the undead. There may be limits to the power of the curse in bodily integrity, and so utter shredding, or vaporization may exceed any capacity for the thing to restore itself. Inflicting such brutalities on the wicked living, ironically, may result in traumatic undeath. Exploiting the madness of the unliving may be highly effective, such as horrifying a lamia with its own reflection. Gorgons and some basilisks may only be safely dealt with or even identified by using mirrors. Restless spirits in general are vulnerable with the causes of their disturbance or their unsettled affairs. Ghosts are traditionally repelled with iron and salt, or else trapped, with the aid of spiritual wards and summoning circles.


Ordeals were trials for the identification of guilt or innocence, especially in matters of witchcraft and dark sorcery. These were essentially of two kinds. The first was to compel divine intervention, under the hubris of presumption, for revealing the truth or else compelling it with pain and suffering. The other kind was a physical test, given some assumption. While there are images that come to mind of inquisitions by Liaboan zealots and mass burnings of heretics, and indeed there is something to say for that, for the most part the ordeal is not something born of ecclesiastical authority or approval. Ordeals are relics of the Age of Chaos when settlements were weak, and signs from the gods were meant to provide authority for solidarity.

There were, of course, significant cultural differences. The branches of the giantmen tribes who established kingdoms and cities, eventually becoming part of the Kannalan Empire, would use trial by combat and "gelds" or blood debts to settle major disputes. Humans retained some vestiges through folk myth of more ancient animism, which treated the elements as governed by the spirits. Ordeals would then be trials of the pure elements: fire, water, air, and earth. Lorded over by the Lords of Liabo themselves: Phoen, Charl, Tonis, and Eonak respectively.

These were folk beliefs and inflicted by what might be called secular authorities, insofar as there were no theocracies, and religious figures had limited power in matters of law. Koar would serve as the quintessence, being King of the Gods, and the God of Law and Justice who rules impartially. Or wrathfully smites the wicked, depending on tastes. Regardless, the precise way an ordeal was conducted varied considerably, even in contradictory ways. Ordeal by fire might involve walking over burning coals or hot irons, or even submerging the hand in boiling lead. There would then be a priest who would check if the wounds were festering days later. There were often clever ways of making fake miracles, such as coating the skin with insulating liquids. In an ordeal by earth, the arm might be crushed under heavy rocks to reveal the favor of Eonak, while an ordeal by air might be surviving three days of being buried alive in a sealed coffin.

While this is utterly barbaric by Elven standards, which holds no general prejudice against magic, it was not entirely without merit. Witches might have their mediating vermin involuntarily driven from their bodies under flames, which would at the very least prove bondage to a witch. Those who were tainted with darkness might be severely resistant to freezing. These were the more purely physical tests, even if many were misguided, such as witches floating when drowned. Brutalities like immolation were eventually outlawed, due to making vengeful spirits.

This was partly from the rise of more central authority over the laity, and partly because trophies of the executed were coveted by necromancers. There were also better methods of sussing out genuine unholy power, such as exposures to sanctified things or places, whether they burned from holy water or Liaboan marble glowed in reaction to their darkness. There was also the problem of "dark empathy" in general, which is to say, inflicting grievous injury on a witch or forcing a dark sorcerer to lash out uncontrollably could kill witnesses. Cruentation survived much longer as proof of being Luukosian or holding the favor of Amasalen. The bleeding of murdered bodies by the laying of hands on them was considered proof of the black arts. Though the ordeals mostly fell out of fashion a long time ago, much of which came from the shifting of human attitudes on magic, they would still crop up in later centuries during witch hunts.


Exorcisms are acts of banishing spirits, which is a practice widely found in religions. In the shaman religions this will involve "calling" upon the spirits, especially by speaking their true names, and commanding them with spiritual magic. There might be elaborate rituals for casting out possessing spirits, which will be embedded in cultural contexts. In the more civilized cultures, Liaboan religions are more likely to call upon the power of a god to banish the spirit, or bind the spirit to upholding oaths. Possession is distinguished from madness by the use of holy materials, such as the reaction to holy water, or blessed items such as amulets and the reaction of the possessed to holy places. More generally, rituals of exorcism are born out of mortuary rituals, especially those which are intended to help the spirit rest or move on to the next world. There is a basic notion of putting the souls of the dead to rest or peace.

However, as with all rites and powers for warding off or compelling spirits, exorcisms may be turned toward more wicked acts. Where a shaman might call a spirit into himself, and call out an evil spirit from others, black shamans might call in a dark spirit and instead command it in its host. The various forms of exorcism in turn will correspond to the kinds of curses. The prayer of exorcism is met with the malison, the benediction with the malediction, and so on and so forth. This is for the simple reason that they have common roots in "death magic."

Much of the rites of exorcism, however, are sympathetic magic rather than clerical theurgy. In addition to invoking the power of the "true name" of the soul or spirit, as well as the gods, the ritual magic will try to leverage off what is known of the unwanted. This will involve trying to correctly identify its vulnerabilities, or counters to black rituals, if any were used on it. This is important because more powerful exorcisms, those which seek to truly banish or unravel dark powers, require a great deal of understanding of them and the black arts. In one of the most major examples of recent years, Althedeus was unraveled with the aid of an exorcism by Aralyte Halanori, a Palestra Blade who had studied how to vanquish it for years. Shadow bane weapons were made for striking it, as ordinary magic would have no meaning against it in its Shadow Realm. Lake Eonak was turned into a shadow portal with the Staff of Ith'can.

The Staff of Ith'can was made by an Ithzir from willingly sacrificed Ithzir bones, and it was capped with one of the eyes of an Ur-Daemon called Ith'can. Althedeus was essentially in the shifting form of a dark apparition, and was shielded with shadows and dark hazes. But when struck with the shadow bane weapons, it would shriek and turn into an amorphous cloud of shadows, with hundreds of incarnadine-hued eyes. When it was sufficiently weakened, Aralyte drew golden light with her hands, and brushed it into her skin to infuse the blood red sigils above her eyes. She was then invoking ritual phrases in the Ithzir language, beginning with: "Maktath vasse janse cra!" Golden light poured out across the ground and formed a golden star.

There were then Ithzir speaking in the minds of those present with Aralyte's voice, responding with the invocation: "Klakkar, denen cra het trila!" These phrases are loosely about waiting there, and then the strength of heavens. They chanted this over and over again as a command. The sigils peeled off Araltye's skin and floated around her as she uttered, "Te klaloc cra issar le tenek sra!" This is loosely speaking of her bringing her blood or essence and spirit. A pale nimbus of light grew behind her, and images of twelve Ithzir formed, their faces marred with golden scars. She repeated this phrase and they vanished, replaced with images of various races of Elanthia. These spectres faded as well with the glow, and the then dark world came alive with a cacophony of guttural cries, shaking the very fabric of existence all around. Aralyte continued with the mind piercing call, "Ledo patan rena tilnak tenek klaloc de lenath!"

The shadow tentacles were drawn and stuck to those floating red shards. She drew golden runes in the air, and the light moved along the shadow tendrils, with ear-piercing shrieks as the shards moved away from her. Finally, Aralyte uttered a single word in an archaic language, but it was heard within the mind: "Undone." With that her eyes shattered like glass, and the four shadowy tendrils were split and torn, dissolving into the distance as a loud and painful demonic growl faded into silence. There was then utter silence and Aralyte collapsed in a heap.

There is much to be parsed from this ritual, including what may have been the Pristine of the Ithzir. Interestingly, Aralyte claimed that hope was lost and that she had tried, after she had collapsed. Althedeus had actually fled, attempting to transfer into an urnon golem under Melgorehn's Reach, but failed and was unable to sustain its form in this world. The extent to which this exorcism was a success or failure is dubious. Aralyte sacrificed much of herself trying, and ended up remaining behind, where her body has twisted into a bloody creature of shadow. But this is illustrative of so-called "god killer" exorcisms or bane weapons. In general these will involve very powerful substances, in this case the body and blood of Ur-Daemon. Other such weapons may be speculatively imagined, if not crafted, for slaying the avatars of higher powers. Analogous to the Staff of Ith'can we might imagine, for example, a blade made from the bones of a Voln paladin. This might then be desecrated with the blood of a disir or other fallen angel, the blood of a lich, and the blood of a powerful demon such as an oculoth or vathor.

(3) Dark Religions

The dark religions of the world are often hidden with secret rituals. These will have been influenced by countless historical forces. In this work we must limit ourselves to only giving a few illustrative examples, specific religious praxis involving the black arts. In truth the study of ritual in cultures is more a matter of ethnography, but ethnography is very dangerous to do with this subject. There is some knowledge of dark rites that may be reconstructed with occult archaeology, and the esoteric philology of dead or extinct languages from those ruins. It is also possible to reconstruct some of it from violent encounters with the cultists, and thaumaturgical or theoretical reasoning based on witnessing it or more material evidences.

Necromantic rituals of undeath are often outgrowths of their mortuary rituals. Idolatry and iconoclasm are rife in dark religions, and they are close cousins of heresy. What is truly known of the gods is scaled by the standard of proof. Li'aerion is self-evident proof of Eorgina's legend to her worshippers, while others hold it is an obvious forgery by Eorgina herself, its pristine condition self-refuting its own legend. Religions and theology are all man-made. There are at most cryptic pronouncements by higher powers. The rest is read into it, then not refuted by gods.

But for dark religions, rituals are visceral. Their "proof" cries out from the blood. Sacrifices are virtually universal, and often, the Dark Gods take it themselves. Where the Light Gods may be venerated for their favor, offered with symbolic honors, these are often more truly dedications of mortal vanity. The relationship of the supplicant in dark religions is instead the question of what you can give of yourself to the dark force that is worthy of it. What you might trade or sacrifice for it. How you might prove yourself as the instrument to its ends. These are all sweeping generalizations. But the black arts of dark religions are wrapped up in these rituals, the gifted powers of darkness, and they may only make sense within that context.

Marluvian Anointment

Few gods are as misunderstood or hotly contested as Marlu. Folk myth holds that Marlu is one of the Ur-Daemon, who sought asylum with the Arkati when his kind were banished. There have been legends of his association with the gods now known as Fash'lo'nae and Eorgina since the earliest written records of ancient oral traditions. More thaumaturgically minded scholars are highly skeptical of the idea that one of the Ur-Daemon could have somehow become a channel of ordinary clerical powers. That Marlu's disposition is apocalyptic, however, is beyond any doubt.

In this contrary perspective, Marlu is thought to have been born of the Ur-Daemon War, perhaps caused by the violence and shattering of the veil. In this he is deeply linked to the figures of the "eldest" and "leader," shackled in the cold moon, with the imperative to burn everything and break the world. There are myths treating him as adopted or somehow born of Eorgina.

Very ancient Marluvian rituals would take place within arrangements of enormous stone monoliths which were set in precise geometric configurations. Sacrifices would be shackled to the stone altar, in the middle of the circular slab between the monoliths, and experience the coldness of utter darkness. Hierophants would stand in front of the monoliths in total silence. But then they would begin unified monotonous chanting in unknown tongues, until their high priest incanted in archaic elven: "Oralach'lan'da at'anoi, ta Marlu vismi'ir!" There would then be bursts of flame from the torches, and the cultists would fall to their knees, gibbering madly in high-pitched chants as the ground shuddered underneath. This was communing with cosmic chaos.

Much as with the Vishmiir themselves, this would be felt with a slick, rotting feeling infecting the soul amidst the insanity and screaming. This relationship is cryptic and ill-understood. What might be expected then is witnessing, in the most immediate way, the sanity shattering cosmic horror of the beyond. In this ancient worshippers of Marlu were diviners of the unknown stars, constellations unseen by mortal eyes, zealots of that which waits for the stars to return to their primordial alignments. The monoliths were thus arranged in his star pattern.

Regardless, this would feel and sound as though a dying man were flailing in a vat of thick oil, and this is perhaps deeply related to the origins of the vruul. In the wastelands and even in more esoteric dimensions there are very ancient Marluvian shrines with these horrors slumbering in foul black unholy oils. These corrosive fluids are harvested from highly alien black blobs, extraplanar in origin, which will devour flesh and make limestone caverns. These dark shrines are places of idolatry and iconoclasm. There are sometimes huge statues of Marlu, which are essentially dormant major vruul, said to occasionally be possessed by Marlu himself. He would preside over dark rituals and ceremonies himself, perched on massive stone thrones.

The cultists in the Broken Land in particular are an interesting case of this belief. There is an unnatural amphitheater in the dark grotto that is the atrium of their shrine. It was made by such blobs, and has walls lined with deep niches, which act as eldritch pipes. The chamber is essentially a vast water organ, and the blobs are gibbering, amorphous dancers that pulsate and swell in hypnotic rhythms. Ceramic urns are inserted into these niches, amphorae which act as acoustic jars, much like those of ordinary churches for modulating high-pitched sounds.

The ritual is to "wake up" one of these huge statues, whether it is truly possessed of Marlu or not, which will in its destructive rage wander down into that chamber. The cave will resonate at the pitch of its growling. The blobs will feel the vibrations and come to devour living sacrifices of flesh. They will be especially drawn to the ceramic urns, which hold their distinct pitches of screaming, and thus fill the urns with corrosive black fluid. These hideous "honeycombs" are then taken by the dark priests and used for anointing ceremonies. Sacrifices will be brutally tortured and their bodies broken on low stone altars. The foul black fluid is poured over their bodies. Huge brass gongs act as altar bells, contrasting with Lorminstran chimes.

It is unclear what these anointments accomplish, precisely, without experiencing it first hand. But the foul fluid is mixed with extraplanar mosses or fungi as nutrients for the hibernating vruul. Occultists have a long heterodox tradition of regarding Marlu, like Fash'lo'nae, as a god of forbidden knowledge and dark secrets. He is sought for visions of eldritch vistas and the immediate apprehension or "gnosis" of cosmic horror. It is not surprising cultists of this kind, regarding Marlu as a god of nightmares and madness, now work with the Sheruvian Order.

Luukosian Sacrifices

"Deades gydenna man sceal ofslean and mann Undeadlicne don.
Beon of deades and blod geboren and yfluo sawla o.
Sawlum earon begeondan Deades. Sawolleasum begeondan Wyrd."

"The goddesses of Death must be killed and man made Immortal.
Born of death and virgin blood and souls of evil.
Souls are beyond Death. Soulless are beyond Fate."

- Luukosian Order, Invocation of the Ebon Path
Gor'nustre, 3861 Modern Era

The Luukosian Order is ancient by most measures of reckoning. Its roots are much older than the Kannalan Empire, though it was not founded until after the Undead War. There are dark rites of this tradition which are written in elder Kannalan, or even precursor dialects of the proto-Kannalan language family. It would take many volumes to do justice to their ritual history. In this work we will only make a glancing look at one aspect of this, which is the Luukosian sacrifice of souls. Long before Luukos was overwhelmingly identified with Undeath, he was regarded as a Soul Eater. This is quite literal. Ritual sacrifices in the dark temples of Luukos often result in the souls of the recently departed having their spirit fed upon by Luukos himself.

In the temples which are intrusions of his dark power, souls of the dead may be swept to him, instead of the Ebon Gate. Luukos will judge the merit of the sacrifice, being displeased if the soul has had other deaths which are too recent, or if the sacrifice was inadequately performed such as being too far from his altar. He would feed upon and drain the spirit, thus ripping the soul apart. This is soul destruction, but not utter annihilation. The soul itself in its most fundamental and barely aware form will be cast aside and eventually end up in purgatory.

Importantly, the body itself is transported to Luukos physically, and then discarded in its spirit death. There are other places where the spirit will be fed upon through a manifestation, such as a huge spectral serpentine head, when slaughtered on a black ora "altar of sacrifice" in front of graven images of Luukos. This may be only a temporary death and used in rites of initiation, where the supplicant makes vows and appeals to Luukos, perhaps sacrificing others and cutting out their hearts. Other times it has been to rip out pieces of the soul, so that these fragments may be used later to compel the will of the victim. Needless to say, Luukos is said to be able to steal souls who died with lies on their lips, and those marked by him.

Soul destruction is a nebulous concept, with disputed relationship to undeath. While most will agree that the "self" inheres in the soul, there are at least three distinct aspects of the soul, with much disagreement on which is the "core" of the self. These are the basal or "animist" soul itself, which has minimal identity; the spirit, which houses sentience and memory, and aspects of personality; and lastly the self-consciousness of mind in higher beings. Luukos feeds upon the spirit. Those who feel the spirit is the "self" will interpret the undead as either suffering cursed souls or else gifted by Luukos. Those who believe it is more fundamentally one of the other aspects will believe the undead are only perverted facsimiles of identity. All of these views of the partial self lend themselves to disregarding the sanctity and autonomy of the living. For Luukosians the spirit belongs to Death, His to do with as He pleases. "Souls" are husks that get discarded to Purgatory. This is not really an empirical question that may be proven one way or another, it is more a matter of metaphysical beliefs and doctrines.

Fragments of soul becoming missing has genuine effects. It will be sensed by animals, who will be frightened by it. The soul shards may be fused with others in soulcrafting, and may even take a whole column of the self, for lack of better wording. Self-consciousness and memory may be split into the soul fragment, which will think of itself as the whole true self. These have been soulcrafted into higher forms of undeath, such as the immortal construct Athamael. There are also times when whole souls are sacrificed in exchange for the return of other souls.

Of special interest is the ritual that returned Morvule, the highest of their high priests, who was lost beyond the planes in the destruction of the Black Temple. The high priests Craelle and Maelyrria sacrificed thousands of victims with shadow daggers as tithes of Lies and Death. Their blood was drawn into a gargantuan enruned crystal obelisk that was floating over a pit into the Maw of Luukos. These tithes to the "Great Serpent," thus invoked as "Father of Lies" and "Lord of Undeath," were met with crowds of ritual chanting. The obelisk was then bleeding with black and red hues, throwing off arcs of shadow from the raw power. Then the catalyst for the return was a sacrifice of a priestess of the Emerald Path, a willing offering of blood, and her death was used to "shatter the walls" separating them from Morvule. With this her life was offered to Morvule, and white light poured from her mortal wound into the obelisk.

This invocation to the "Master of Death" was met with the obelisk turning pitch black and calls by the priests to return with unified gestures. This made the obelisk burst in a deafening explosion, flooding the chamber with huge bolts of black energy and liquid shadows. When the blackness faded away, the obelisk was whole again, and Morvule was flying on his wings. It was at this time Tseleth was brought back as an Arch-Lich, climbing out of the Maw with tentacles of green flames. But this illustrates their use of blood sacrifices and infernal darkness. Of course, this only scratches the surface of the Luukosian black arts, which take many forms. It was Luukosians who helped Baron Hochstib with sacrifices to infuse himself with Mandis.

Demonic Cultist Summoning

In the dark wastelands there are "hellgates" that are tears in reality into the more infernal realms, formed from more primordial corruption or violence to the veil itself. There are also weaknesses in the veil, thinning of the barriers between worlds, which allow non-corporeal powers to reach into this world. The Vvrael was able to substantially lash into this world, for example, as the Rift was threatening to rip and widen. While the dominant mode of "demonic summoning" by the Faendryl is to tear the veil and materially pull through an entity, even with them this is not the only form of demonic summoning. Incorporeal shadows and dark hazes are summoned, for example, to bind to the summoner and backlash against those around them.

These are descended from very old traditions of black magic, including summoning circles with pentagram protection charms, and the conjuring of restless spirits or inflicting evil eyes. In the Faendryl method of linking, and threatening to strand the demon in this world instead of banishing it, there are undeniable roots in the way necromancers had commanded the souls of the dead. In the southern wastes where witchcraft mixed into the more ancient demonic cults, theurgical demonic summoning would conjure non-corporeal demons or those stuck in this world.

In time there would be Faendryl outcasts of various kinds who would spread their methods of veil tearing as well. But the demonic cultists would have earlier been engaging in ritual summons of the demonic forces, which are accessible by these methods in those lands. There would be summoning circles and brutal, bloody sacrifices of the living. The circle itself may be made as a ring of blood on a stretched patch of flayed flesh, held down on its corners by skulls, bats drowned in innocent blood and nails thrice used for impaling. Importantly, the cults would often try to make someone be possessed by the demon, for the sake of divination and scrying in general. They would take down the markings made by those in trance states, for example, then in the next ritual carve these symbols into the flesh of a host. Cultists would form around the old places of the Ur-Daemon, and attempt to commune with whatever dark powers would answer them.

There would be speaking in tongues and paranormal phenomena, such as unnatural levitation, and symbols or words burning or self-wounding into the flesh. There would, in general, be ritual chanting. The demonic force might be made to more permanently take its host, gestating and transmogrifying the body in some way. Demons might be called upon with chthonic languages, most especially what is now called the Dark Elven tongue, much as shamans do with more mundane spirits. Offerings and enticements were made to the "demonic spirits," much as with the dark gods. It is often ecstatic forms of worship, seeking dark contacts, or traversing spiritually into realms of darkness. Cults would try to make deals and serve the gods of those baleful realms. In the Age of Chaos in the West, there was not much distinction between "demons" and other infernal powers, including some undead. It was partly due to this kind of necromantic summoning.

(4) Lichdom

Lichdom has been accomplished through many rituals or acts of unholy intervention. It is, as a rule, corrupt. There are no "good" liches. Were there such a thing, they would be considered some kind of transcended or blessed immortal, and not known as a lich. Most of these rituals are not recorded. Many may have only ever happened once, notwithstanding however many failed attempts. The knowledge is held by the liches themselves and perhaps the dark religious orders or their affiliates. Of course, more is known about liches, but often only approximately.

The "true" lich binds its soul in a phylactery, which is traditionally a jar with vellum inside it, often made from its bones. There are many forms of phylacteries, such as spherical gems, or crystals in obsidian chambers. Much older rites of lichdom involved cutting out one's own living organs. There is soulcrafting involved to preserve the mind, which will inherently be flow magic.

Phylactery Restoration

Phylacteries will, in general, be highly resistant to magic. This is for reasons not only of self-preservation, but to prevent interference over the will of the lich through its soul. Their destruction will often require much physical bashing. But there may be forms of power to be dealt with, such as with glyphs or runes, or perhaps curses and other forms of traps. One way or another, the physical object which is acting as the phylactery may be destroyed, as there are limits to all matter. It is not especially within our scope to detail the specifics on ways of making phylacteries or the exact rituals of achieving lichdom. These would inherently be historical examples of specific liches, not a theoretical rationalist "method" of lichdom, with the improvement of such rituals being millennia of trial and error. Suffice it to say, the phylactery will usually be made of body substances, or else with expensive and magical materials.

What is more interesting to consider are the rituals involved in restoring a phylactery after it has been destroyed. This is inherently a much more rare event, and involves the black arts. The destruction of the phylactery is not sufficient to slay liches, but it will make them have to hold themselves together without it. There are two basic options. One is to make the lich another phylactery. This is not so very simple, as demi-liches are something like wraiths. One does not simply make a wraith into a lich. The other option is to restore the phylactery.

It is possible this may require very deep understanding of the specific minutae in the way the phylactery was made in the first place. Their ritual of lichdom. Working around this limit may be possible as well. Especially if the primary goal is not to restore its support to the lich. There was a case of this in the year 5117, with the abandoned "Lich's Landing" of Barnom Slim. This is a subterranean mockery of Wehnimer's Landing, a small frontier town of recent years in the northwest of Elanith, which was made adjacent to the phylactery chamber of its Lich King. The sylvan necrobotanist who calls herself Goblyn felt the undead of this place were "wrong" and "incomplete," suffering from absence and lack of direction, and so she set about clearing out the ruins to make way into the "Chamber of Decay." There was an elaborate ritual of blood magic performed to time reverse the damage to the obelisk and restore the chamber runes.

The Chamber of Decay was unnaturally formed of smooth obsidian walls, pulsating with white energy and humming with power. There was a very large and unusual black obelisk, which had three dark pillars, stretching up like jagged claws. There was a viridian light in the center of this claw, which lashed out and seared into Barnom when he first touched the obelisk. The walls of the chamber are etched with ancient, archaic runes, which would glow with the white light. This was the moment and way he was bonded to the chamber and the land began to decay in blight.

This chamber was, of course, found and destroyed. Much of Lich's Landing suffered from collapsing earth. When it was dug out several years later in 5117, the faint rune etchings were still visible, but parts of the wall were completely shattered. The black obelisk itself was in three piles of rubble. There had been many shards of obsidian and tiny white gem that were sort of mindlessly, instinctively collected by the undead of Lich's Landing over the years, and these had to be retrieved and returned to the chamber. It has a huge black ora door, and it is next to the throne room. The shards of white gems were pieces of the phylactery. These would become embedded into the obsidian walls of the chamber, whose runes glowed with a white light from the power of ripping out souls.

Part of the reason it is known as the Chamber of Decay is that it tears the spirit out and causes spirit death. There were many skeletal remnants in the passage up to it when Barnom first found it. However, the towering obsidian obelisk has an inferno of viridian light in its claws, and this will strike out and hit others. It is in this way a transformation may happen. The ritual for restoring this chamber, which is itself partly a "snare" and partly "soul runes" in kind, was a use of blood on the obsidian shards to reforge it with temporal reversion.

The blood magic was essentially in the use of life essences and spirit to restore the spiritual power of the phylactery and bind its substance to the time warp. Goblyn herself has some sort of demonic power in her, and frequently manifests inky black liquid from herself. This was seeped into the obsidian shards, which slowly liquified, and melted into each other. These were tendrils of her own essence. There were then glowing white tendrils as she pulled spirit out of several others, which was also infused in the obsidian, which caused the blood that had been spattered on them to seep into it. Ultimately, they merged into a mass of melted obsidian, the drain inflicting spirit deaths. The white gem shards flew up and hurtled into the walls.

This was the initiation of a process, where the phylactery (somewhat) restored itself. There were flashes of bright white light as the gems hit the wall, and with each successive wave of energy, the cracks in the walls and door repaired themselves. The melted obsidian simultaneously liquified and rose up, solidifying into a towering black obelisk. The chamber then repeatedly surged with white energy, accompanied by a searing, ripping sensation as it tore spirit from the body. Sometimes these were individuals, and other times it was everyone present in the chamber.

The etchings in the walls were powered up on the devoured spirit and took on a brighter and wholly unnatural glow. There were many spirit deaths, souls being ripped apart, bodies decaying. The glowing viridian light returned to the talons of the obelisk, and struck out at some of those present, until converging into a rapidly churning rhythm. Ethereal wisps thrashed around in the light. The energy rippling through the air of the chamber settled into a gentle hum, as it found its balance, which set off a backlash of temporal magic that spread outward. Time felt as though it were snapping in half. Then the bright white flashes spread down the hallway, restoring all of those cracked walls as well, but searing all around with jolts of pain. While Goblyn said at the time that Barnom Slim cannot be remade, he was brought back a few years later, with a wholly unrelated method. It is not at all clear that he is still bound to it.

The Ritual of Essence

The Ritual of Essence is a method of rebirth for demi-liches that was purportedly from the Southron Wastes. In truth, the book which supposedly detailed it was itself acting as a beacon for the disembodied vestiges of the lich, ultimately serving as a surrogate phylactery. This is remarkable as it was one of the very rare instances of such a ritual being widely observed. For this reason we shall recount it in great detail, for it is only useful for returning demi-liches from netherworlds, and thus its method is alchemical blood magic and without soulcrafting. It was performed in 5120 Modern Era by a Disciple of the Lich, who was once known as Vlashara, but had become an Adjudicator of the Hall of Mages under the false identity Vlashandra.

Vlashara was seeking to reopen the gateway to the Shadow Realm that Aralyte had made with the Staff of Ith'can at the base of Melgorehn's Reach. This involved a great deal of mass death at the pincers of beady-eyed reaper constructs, exploiting a deranged flesh amalgam artificer named Callid, and these reapers were sacrificed to open up the portal that had been formed. While most of the ritual seems to only be opening a portal, when rightly understood the ritual of essence is an integral whole, irreducible to the final steps acted on the host body itself.

This was an elaborate manipulation under the false pretense of rescuing Aralyte from the Shadow Realm. Callid had constructed a semi-amorphous patchwork body of pristine flesh, with thin if vaguely humanoid limbs, and a head whose face was featureless. The ritual is rooted in the recapitulation traditions of occultism and homunculi formation in blood vats. It was specifically making use of a rebirth process, forming a blood bridge to the Shadow Realm as its birthing canal. When it was completed, the amorphous body would begin to form and develop into more adult features, shaped by the soul and memory imparted to it. However, since this was the immortal essence of a demi-lich, the flesh took on a rotting form and the eyes became glowing red embers. It was the rebirth of the Lich King, Barnom Slim, who had been consumed by the Shadows. He was trapped in the Shadow Realm, now a vast power vacuum, until some force replaces Althedeus.

The Ritual of Essence must be performed over the span of a few weeks. It is a sorcerous mixture of incompatible essences, which is used to rend the veil. It was necessary for the ritual to be performed in that place, given the existing weakness in the veil there to the Shadow Realm. Ashen flakes were first spread on Lake Eonak, quite possibly ash of the Bleaklands. Each of the elemental essences, with the exception of water, is fused with blood or life forces, which must be freely offered. The basis of the ritual is a fertility rite to sire the offspring.

In fact, the ritual conductor was quite seductive and lustful during parts of the dark rites, which is perhaps important. Rituals are laden with the performative symbolism of religions. It probably has its origins in the demonic cults of the Southron Wastes, who will seek to "birth" the demonic, or be transmogrified from within into abominations by unnatural possession. The Disciples of the Lich were only a newly born order. But this is typical of undeath cults fetishizing the dead, filled as they are with necrophiliacs and self-mutilators like Vlashara.

Fundamentally, this is the sympathetic aspect of blood magic, with its corresponding forms. Essence of blood red earth is made from the blood of males, thus to seed and fertilize the field, gathered by cutting the hand. Those who hear its call say it sounds guttural. Essence of air is heard as the cry of a babe, and it requires an obsidian dagger to be stabbed wholly into the womb of several women, their blood making incarnadine essence of air. The meaning of this is obvious. The essences were whispered to repeatedly, and so there are unknown ritual expressions, along with the archaic languages. Essence of fire instead melts away and the bloody dagger brightens, as it is put through the flames of burning flesh from those willingly immolated.

These are all fusions of life forces into the essence of elements. Waving the dagger and shouting an archaic word in some eldritch language makes the essence of air ignite into an eerie crimson haze, and the essence of blood red earth bleeds into the ground. The air hums and crackles, and the veil is torn, forming a small churning incarnadine portal. Such a portal is ichor and bloody to the touch. This bridge of blood would then show the way, through the now glowing book, where each elemental essence must then be paired with a more restorative essence.

There is approximately a week delay while the "beacon" further develops. The metaphor of the "beacon" was mostly dishonesty. Aralyte had a red soulstone capable of opening the way, much as the Eye of Ith'can. It was a "beacon" for her to follow to this world. It is noteworthy as a symptom of taint that Vlashara licked the blood of others off her fingers. In the second phase of the ritual, crushed blazestar is spread on the ground, which is known for glowing with the fluctuations of elemental essences. The essence of fire is bridged to essence of regeneration, which is made by burning troll flesh, with the dagger slashing the body of each sacrifice in one of various places. This will serve to regenerate the whole body. This is purely sympathetic as the blood is not touching the essence of regeneration, which begins pulsing and beating like a heart with each infusion of wounding. In the final instance of this the body is stabbed and run down the whole torso of a man through the waist and groin. The portal or "bridge" is touched at the beginning of each ritual step to bind the life essences to the birthing canal.

With the essence of air, empaths are stabbed just under the throat, while essence of vitality is held in the other hand. This is made from the potent restorative known as yabathilium fruit. In the act of doing so, the stabbed will immediately appear drained, as they lose some of their life forces. There is a scar that immediately forms, and their flesh ages and wrinkles. It is an example of the black art of life stealing. The blood on the dagger is infused with such life forces, and the blood is dripped onto the blazestars and beating essences of regeneration. It is then followed by chanting some dark and guttural phrase, which makes the essence of regeneration melt away into the ground, and the portal itself begins thudding as a beating heart.

Over the course of two weeks, and while much bloody death had been happening in the near environs, the gateway beats stronger and becomes black-flecked. The blood bridge and the tome reveal that the essence of fire and regeneration is to be bridged to essence of body, which is made with ayana'al leaf, which only grows in places of anti-magical corruption. The essence of fire and regeneration is to be bridged to essence of mind, while the essence of air and vitality is to be bridged to essence of soul. The last of which is made with the spirit of alchemists.

It was by sacrificing the instruments of mass death into the blood bridge that the "birthing canal" was widened open to the Shadow Realm. The semi-amorphous blob of embryonic flesh was then brought into the Shadow Realm, and the soul of the demi-lich was drawn to the "beacon" as a white light on the black background of the sky. When it was arrived into the tome, it glowed with light, and the tome was then ignited and hurled off a cliff. It was noticed at this time that its pages of papyrus were actually blank. Essence of body was poured on the unblemished flesh, essence of mind was poured on the head, and essence of soul was poured on the chest. There were ritual phrases about binding the body, the mind no longer wandering, and the soul returning. These are especially noteworthy to the black arts of necromancy, as the sustaining of mind and identity in undeath is critical, and this is how the Ritual of Essence prepares the body.

It is impossible for the flesh amalgam vessel to be born in the Shadow Realm. It was brought back through the portal, the birthing canal, so that the ritual could be completed. The essences were then poured in reverse order. The essence of soul is poured on the body, with the ritual phrase: "Bridged by blood, may your lost soul be bound home." The essence of mind is poured on the featureless face, along with saying: "May your mind be healed and restored to recognize you who truly are." The obsidian dagger then cuts open a mouth hole and essence of body is poured down the throat. With this the necromancer breathes air through the mouth down the throat. It is at this point the embryonic body shifts and develops into the identity of the lost soul.

This is essentially a simulacra method of recapitulating a body out of dead flesh through the use of blood magic and the memory identity of a soul. Homunculi are without soul, and this is a permanent host for lichdom, so the vessel immediately is undead rather than "living." Though demi-liches are known to be able to possess the living. But the Ritual of Essence is remarkable in how it illustrates the cross-pollination of the black arts and their provenance in the Southron Wastes. It is "dark sorcery" with fusions of essences, blood, and the taint of shadows.

(5) Witchcraft

"And so the villagers would speak of their cows giving spoiled milk, and there would be seen rusting of knives and tarnishing of silver. Hags who were once vagrom girls may then be known, by vice of youthful lechery, to have been known by Incubus. In vile congress were born Succubus, who in its seductions will beget Cambions. For this is the treachery of witches and their evil pacts, whose hexes deprive men of knowing their wives."

- "The Sowing and Reaping of Witches", Inquisitor manual.
Church of Koar, 4763 Modern Era

Witches are more of an archetype than a single tradition, though their black magic ultimately descends from ancestral roots. It would be a fool's errand to try to represent the rituals of all the varied forms of witchcraft. Instead we will look at two examples of very different kinds, arising out of divergent historical traditions. There are what may be called more spiritual forms of witchcraft, which in one sense or another are religious. These may involve dark prophecy, communing or bonding with higher powers, and mysticism such as the "power of three."

In contrast to this, we will look to the modern example of the witch Raznel, who was highly inauthentic in this way. Far from being a weird or weyward sister, she was of the Hall of Mages and the Arcanum in her earlier life, scholastic magisterial orders of the Empire. She learned witchcraft in her youth from her own former students and focused on demonic blood magic.

Hexing With Blood Bonds

In spite of her madness, the witch Raznel was a rationalist, in terms of thaumaturgical propensity. Instead of mystical divination, for instance, she relied upon temporal magic of wizardry. Her blood magic was often largely rooted in its alchemical properties, such as with the black blood plague and the paragons. Concrete effect was paramount. To the extent that she had used sympathetic magic, it was as a mechanism for making some outcome work. Moreover, Raznel was utterly profane and irreligious, taking allies only insofar as they were useful to her.

In this it is illustrative to consider the way hexing was done with blood bonds. There was one case of enthralling a Blameless crusader, having poured a concoction into wounds in his skull. Raznel would mix her own blood into such bonds as a confound. Importantly, it is not necessarily the blood of the victim that is needed, hexes could use the willing blood of others.

Raznel was known to seal off the magical powers of others with hex dolls through such donations. It is rumored that she bloodied the waters of Darkstone Bay in this way with her supporters. This was an ongoing process of inculcating a major blight, which began with a bleakstone statue, and the decay was exacerbated with witchworms and other perversions. Interesting most of all is the case of the orc Thrayzar, who was once human, but was transformed at the same time as Drangell with a yellow mist from a bone talisman. The curse is actually a blood bond, and Raznel was able to affect it remotely. It was in some sense only half-way, until Thrayzar was plunged into madness. His mind made to drown underneath the bestial orc instincts of his curse.

His mind was buried alive, and would have eventually died. Hexing in this way is a straight forward ritual of blood magic. It would involve using rune-carved mediators and smearing them with blood. Raznel would have used bleakstone scarabs, as well as the blood of those close to Thrayzar. This would have come out of her own body from previous parasitic sampling and frozen into the scarabs. The bone talisman itself would be the tether of his bond, which means destroying it would cut him free of his anchor. This would have been placed in a circle of blood.

The scarabs would correspond in a sympathetic way to the spirits of the victim. They would then be split open and torn away like a scab, and the witch would sprinkle flakes of dried blood around the the lines of the circle. These would be in equal arc lengths for each scarab, which would be crushed in her hand, so that her gashed palm would bleed onto the talisman. The totems would be broken in this way, one at a time, until the circle was thus encircled. With the confounds of the rituals thus readied, the witch would chant, and conduct the actual magical effect of hexing. The talisman would then have needed to have been smashed with concussive force by someone who truly hated and despised the victim. There was a purely local earthquake only shortly before Thrayzar began showing symptoms, and so it is thought to have been caused by the ritual for hexing him. It was days before he was obviously affected and only worsened.

Necromantic Seance

More supernatural in nature are witch covens who perform oracular and divinatory ecstasies. This black art is in some ways a dark mirror of the mystics of Jastev, the tragic poet and seer god, such as the Grey Prophets of the Yssian Mountains. These are the four elders of a stone monastery. According to legend, they were quadruplets, born thousands of years ago. The Mother of Many Colors is also rumored to be "timeless," divinely close to Lumnis and leader of an order of soothsayers. Divine Oracles of the Daughters of Lumnis are "seemingly ageless seers."

In turn it is rumored weird witches have unnatural longevity or immortality. That such oracles are anointed, confounded with Fate itself, straddling between the worldly and astral realms. Witches of this kind will speak in riddles and contradictions, issuing dark prophesies that are easily misinterpreted. Where the Grey Prophets have at times been consulted by the Emperors of the Turamzzyrian Empire, imperial misfortunes are attributed to not heeding their warnings. Much the opposite is true of Perverse Fates, wicked hexers of self-fulfilling prophecy.

First Witch:

Eye of Lumnis, Rings of Fash;
Boom off skies, nae nor flash.
Offal winds the tales of woe
Wails of license, mistl'd toes.

Second Witch:

Harland's bane, and spoil'd reigns;
Crown upon the dragon's fane.
Sprig of wort, and drown the babe
Penny royals, fey will feign.

Third Witch:

Circles, circles, 'buked and burled.
Blood of soil, foolish foes
Throes of brawn. First Duke, then Earl.
Blunder, fallen, screams withdrawn.

All Three:

Fires, ash and grim, ill esteem'd
Will break the wheel; Turn and turn
Sink and burn! Skies of thunder
Boils and fiends! Torn asunder!

- Weird Sisters of Gattrof, known as the Perverted Fates.
Burned by the Church of Koar; 4826 Modern Era

Witches of visions and prophecy apparently make contact with the infernal realms of nightmares, analogs of astral or dream worlds, and so will be mediators of dark forces and act as doomsayers. This is the way of madness. Covens of weyward sisters are made up of three witches, who chant almost incoherently, and will speak in a disjointed way. They will finish each other's thoughts, as though they were multiple heads of a single witch. For this reason they are assumed to be mediators of some dark power with a capacity for foretelling the threads of Fate. Much as cynics think the Grey Prophets recruit their replacements to uphold their legend, "weird sister" witches are often dismissed as engaging in stage tricks of illusory improvisation.

Nevertheless, there is more in the heavens and earth than cold reading and confidence tricks, and there are dire consequences to prophecy. The ritual chant given above was during the reign of Empress Selantha II, preceding the deaths of her sons, and the ill-fated war on the Faendryl from bad foresight by her Royal Seer. The famed prophet, Caerol, who was executed. In this the witches seem to foretell these events, and invoke the Curse of Inar'ru that would befall Kezmon Isle. This is essentially a necromantic "seance," medium trances with black magic.

Of special interest is the necromancy of conjuring the souls of the dead, which has its roots in the seances and mediations of far more ancient mortuary rituals. More animist cultures still call ancestral spirits. The minotaur magi Sulldina summoned their ancient warrior-king Tordaak in 5108, for example, one of Despana's lieutenants who had survived Maelshyve. These rituals were later adapted by occultists to make spirits reveal the locations of hidden treasures. Though it may sound paradoxical, these are exorcism rituals, merely turned inside out. The spirit is called upon so that it may be commanded and driven out, which in turn means commanding the spirit before it is banished. Necromancers in this sense understood that the rituals depended on the right conditions for summoning departed souls. These were ideally the most recently dead, the murdered, battlefields or mass slaughters, or the places and bodies of the executed.

Prescribed rules for conjuring the dead will require being in familiar places, especially the place of its own death, and having the body in this location if it is to be risen. The ritual wording will depend upon the local religious customs. What you will expect to hear are calls for a restless spirit to return, and answer for itself, under threat of suffering the pains of its torment for some extended duration. There will be a summoning circle and typically some wand or talisman. The ritual will have to be at certain hours and repeated so many times.

The ritual items will of necessity have an embedded context. But for the sake of illustration, the wand may be bound with wort and the head of an owl. There may be a chafing-dish with fire and aromatic incense, vials of oil, and the spilling of wine or blood. Restless spirits are called upon and compelled to possess the corpse, which will then rise, and be bound as a spirit servant. The necromancer may then command it to speak of what it knows, whether of this world, or the realms of spirits and the dead. Exorcism rites play into this as the spirit is coerced with the hope of its release from suffering. This will be achieved by utterly burning the body, or burying it with lime and salt, as well as iron and sulfur along with the exorcism. If the summoning circle is imperfect and he has no pentagram charm, or the necromancer is vulnerable from his personal relation to the current constellations, the dead spirit may kill him.

It is not at all difficult to see in this how such a ritual is easily perverted into make the "true undead" and cursing the souls more permanently. It illustrates in simple and obvious ways how the spiritual magic for calling upon spirits, even for warding against them and exorcising or banishing the restless, may be turned on its head into darker acts of necromancy. The black arts will then diverge from this kind of ritual, and we see in it the roots of demonic summoning. This arises out of the prayers of mortuary rituals and exorcisms for releasing the dead.

(6) Occultism

"Nor are the unseen horrors of myth --- those fantastic superstitions haunting us out of the abyss of strange aeons --- to be supposed mere fancies, but instead are dimly held remembrances of unimaginably older things. Monstrous in Form, yet Eternal in Idea. What predates history waits beyond Fate itself. In the land of Shadow the circle is squared, and the effect is greater than the cause. Past and future are bound together as One. There the dead live and thoughts become matter. The Laws of Contradiction supersede the Laws of Continuity. Paradox reveals the hidden mysteries, and cause descends from above. Through signs are seen unseen wonders. What we know now are only vestiges of these more horrible truths. Knowledge of dreams beyond Death itself."

- "Servants of the Shadow: Power through Thralldom"
Bandur Etrevion; Ca. -1,300 Modern Era

Occultists work on the boundary between rational and irrational magic, the working of coherent laws and the inexplicable and ineffable forces of the supernatural. Where the rationalist will dismiss illogic and superstition, the legends held by the faithful, the occultist will say this inconsistency is not relevant. With the scrutiny of reason, the words will have no power. But that is only the surface upon one level of consciousness. If you look past the contradictions, they will dissolve in the infinite, where higher knowledge exists in the realms beyond. Thus, the rituals of the occultist are most often concerned with scrying, and summoning for esoteric knowledge. Which is to say, subjective experiences, psychological phenomena in the mind.

They will often form secret societies which are concerned with knowledge and enlightenment. There will be outer societies for initiation, but then some inner society of masters. Those who "master" the first society may or may not ever be taken into the more hidden order. What has happened historically is that such inner circles will make claims to esoteric knowledge, and it will be because there is an even more secret society of hierophants beyond the inner circle. Through some form of mystical contact, in realms beyond, knowledge comes from Hidden Masters.


"All that is Now, was Begotten of Them. Forms born of the Formless. They lurk Now, Beyond the Threshold. Old and Unborn. They remain. Only Gosaena knows Whence. Only Gosaena knows When. Gosaena knows the Crack of Doom. Only through Gosaena will They be Known. For Gosaena is the Gate, and the Gate is Death. Death holds the Keys, and the Last Key is Doom. Gosaena is the Key and the Gate. Gosaena is the Guardian of the Forbidden. All is One in Gosaena. Oraesh'lan dha laediach ta geilach! Oraesh'lan'da ta Gosaena!"

- Bandur Etrevion, Lord High Sorceror
Catechism of the Dark Path

In this way the occultists will border on simply being cultists. However, this is seductive for seekers of forbidden knowledge, including the irreligious. Secret or hidden masters may be an ascension ideology, or it may refer to otherworldly entities, or even more abstract cosmic forces or laws. The danger in this is that the black arts are the ideal path for learning forms of magical knowledge and cosmic esotericism that are only poorly understood within the framework of orthodox theory. Moreover, it is difficult to know that this is not manipulation by a much darker force toward its own ends, or that it is not unwittingly aiding some great destruction. Secret societies may even be bent in this way through infiltration by demonic cultists. They will lure in apprentices with concrete powers of magic, working upon confounds of life forces, until the taint of dark essences has formed a soul bond enthralling them to the society.

The highly alien nature of the dark forces is perversely a safe haven for illogic, and while such an occult society may not be religious, they may nevertheless be fanatical nihilists who are totally reckless in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge. In this way the rationalist lure of concrete power leads the way to far more irrational ends. Occultists who pursue knowledge in the black arts will eventually be twisted into madness. But much as the "confounds" of physiology allow magical sense perceptions, this debasement is attunement for seeing "the beyond."

Within the hidden orders of these imitation guilds, the rituals are thus not limited to scrying or summoning. What they will seek is the transformation of self with the black arts. With the Faendryl this is often some form of cosmic monism, trying to expand beyond the Arcanist ideal of unlimited sight of the true essence. Whether this is some unified cosmic power or unnatural fusions, it is twisting for the body, which is not "made for" wielding more infernal essences. It is not only about a new source of power, but transcending the limits of power. Rituals may then be expected to expose the occultists to highly mutagenic radiations, dark contacts beyond the veil, and immediate witnessing of mind shattering eldritch vistas. These rites will become a secret and esoteric body of knowledge. Which to outward appearances will look weird and irrational, riddled with cryptic phrases, elder signs and seals with names of unknown powers.

Scholastic Esotericism

The Sixty-seventh Daemon is Ith'can, a Great Duke and Office of Astrology. His Form appeareth as the Three-Lobed Burning Eye, which the Exorcist musteth not gaze into, for He maketh the Foul seemeth Fair. He speaketh in Shattered Voices and vomits Black Fire. His Slit Pupils hath the Power of Many Places in One, and He is a Great Deceiver of Women. He will betray the Exorcist for Forty Pounds of Gold, and will not suffer temptation Less than Thirty Pounds of Silver. He ruleth over Twice as many Legions as Pounds of Precious Metals, and may change Man or Woman into desired Shapes. His is the Order of Dominion.

The Sixty-eighth Daemon is Goseth, a Foul King and Legate, who appeareth as a Cruel Old Man with One Eye, emaciated and Noxious of Breathe. Beware his green Vomit. He speaketh in Burning Ashes with a Flaming Sword from his Mouth, which cutteth his Face into a Two Headed Serpent, which issues until He is a Hydra. His staff is a Viper and He is Master of Ablutions. His is the Power of Putrid Wounds and Festering Worms, changing Dead Bodies and Moving them unto Fifty Legions. His is the Order of Death.

The Sixty-ninth Daemon is Orslathain, the Shadow with Wings and Sire of Goseth. Overking of the Seven Abysses, he rides a Six-Headed Infernal Dragon in Flames. His good Familiars cometh in pleasing Forms of unclothed Women, who Destroy Sight at command of the Exorcist. He Knows the Unseen Stars and the True Name of Water. He is Master of placing Virtues and Wonders in Talismans. He ruleth Ninety Legions of Inferior Daemons and plunges the Sun in Night. His is the Order of Darkness."

- Excerpt from the "Hegemeton" or "Lesser Key of Fash'lo'nae"; Vilnius manuscript, known as the Heptameron.
Translated abridgement in Common; Ruins of Veng, 4633

Witches and warlocks of our defining engage in occult rituals, while occultists collect this very same dangerous knowledge, so one may be forgiven for wondering how they are different. When we speak of "witches" and "warlocks," we refer to the authentic traditions of black magic, often involving cults or even cultural practices. Occultists are instead scholars or gadflies of the occult, seeking out relics or disparate bits of lore, and removing what they find from its original context. These pieces of "forbidden knowledge" will be collected together into some scheme or hierarchy, or otherwise rationalized, in a way that is alien to their own historicity. What the occultists lose in authenticity, they make up for in being less provincial.

Occultists are not, in general, devotees of the black arts. There is only a subset who pursue, much less themselves practice, the most dangerous and forbidden knowledge. The occultist may be expected to set what they have collected into hierarchies and typologies, especially with scholastic emphases, focusing on cryptic signs and seals or talismans of otherworldly powers. It will involve the pretense of knowing the hidden "true names" of things, incorporating dead languages and written symbols, and philology in general with the power of runes and glyphs.

Occultist rituals by their very nature must differ from those of the dark religions from whom they extracted knowledge. These ritual elements of the dark religions will often not have their leveraged meaning for sympathetic magic when removed from their traditions. Occultists may then use some of these matters, such as the elder signs of eldritch horrors. But they will have to develop their own rituals with a heightened emphasis on what manifestly works. It is dangerous in its own ways, not knowing everything the original sources did, or having the same relations with the forces invoked. Occult societies will tend to develop weird, syncretic interpretations of higher powers, blending together various traditions with heterodox theologies. There is always the pretense of esoteric knowledge, so these will be regarded as the true secrets and hidden mysteries. In the most extreme cases, such as the Dark Path, these are actual cults.

VII.D Artifacts and Forbidden Knowledge

"The Staff of Ith'can was recovered, I believe, almost two years ago. The Blade Aralyte. It was within some of Grishom's collection. It was forged by the bones of Ithzir, and capped with the eye of an Ur-Daemon. Or so the story goes, or I suppose, went. The white eye was filled with the blood of a demon, and then used to turn Lake Eonak into a pool of shadow, allowing many of you into the Shadow Realm.

But the staff was forged by Ithzir bones, and per Grishom's writings --- and, let me preface this all, Grishom Stone is a madman; it took me only a few moments of regarding his work and musings and research to confirm what I knew from the stories I'd heard --- the staff was said to be forged by Ithzir bones. But was actually created by an Ithzir. Grishom believed the creator had volunteers sacrifice themselves to try to make this staff. ... Grak'na'Den. Grak'na'Den is the Ithzir's name for Althedeus..."

- Vynessa, Curator of Wehnimer's Landing Museum; 5116 Modern Era

In the Age of Darkness there were essentially only two kinds of artifacts with magical power. Those of the godlike powers, and those of the more mortal races. The first of these remain as immensely powerful relics from the primeval depths of pre-history, and much sought after by the most ambitious and reckless mortals. They are often keystones in strategies for reaching some form of ascension, or temporal power in this world by cabals and warlords. Whenever there has been some especially great disturbance involving magic, it is thought some great artifact was used to amplify power. Occasionally, these are constructed even by the races of flesh and blood, especially through great concentrations of power. More often such relics are short cuts.

In the earliest years of elven and mannish civilization, there were also superstitious totems, whether fertility idols or charms of luck and warding. When orthodox magic was first developed by the Elves, there was a specialization of "spheres of magic" through the use of confounds. These were most often attunements of the body to more specific modes of the essence, which in turn heightened and narrowed the range of sense perception of the flows. It was a way of leveraging to achieve greater spell effects, but it was also self-limiting with lower fluidity.

Arcane power is very difficult for the mannish and even the elven races to wield with a great deal of proficiency. But what was understood is that these "confound" limits are personal, only the attunements of the caster. It was possible to instead wield magic through inanimate matter. Various materials have their own propensities and intrinsic magical properties. But when the caster imbeds power and whole spell patterns into items, those items become surrogate confounds for spell users of other orientations. Hybrid and Arcanist wielders are more proficient at this flexibility, in general, but it was possible to achieve through "artifacts" what was infeasible for individuals. More complex combinations of spells and greater concentrations of mana were possible through such mediating confounds. That said, the greater the power involved, the more dangerous. Powerful relics are usually locked away by societal regulators of magic.

(1) Eldritch Languages

With the nature of rote magic, when a spell effect in some sense becomes codified, the rigid and specific way it is done becomes preserved. Orthodox magic is more truly rooted in the caster manipulating the essence through their attunements and focus in general. It is an interface between the physical body and the magical energies, and this is very real, which is why backlash or "overextension" causes nerve damage due to this "mental" binding. Magic is felt as something like an act of will, which has often engendered conflations of cause and effect. The method will most often involve gesturing and uttering in prescribed ways. These are not strictly necessary, as the spell pattern may be achieved other ways, such as drawing glowing runes into the air. What is important in this is that these preserved "rote" methods, often being very old, are made out of archaic dialects and even dead or extinct languages and writing systems.

Though this is exoteric magic, it might appear to the unfamiliar to be quite mystical, even esoteric mysteries encoded in words. However, merely repeating a magical phrase will not conduct its magic, even moreso than in the irreproducibility of ritual magic. It is an acquired skill involving increased potency in the manipulation of power. Rote magic is excised from its older context of development in flow magic, much as the rites and symbols of rituals may be extracted, then fumbled through blindly by esotericist imitators. Nevertheless, much as with artifacts, magic may be encoded in writing. Scrolls and tomes may have spell patterns embedded within them. Similarly, runes and glyphs are used on other items, enchantments and disenchantments.

Much as with everything else in the history of magic, the more malevolent and black arts were developed in their own traditions. Dark magic in this way will often make use of very different languages and symbols, in addition to manipulating other forms of energy, which come from more alien worlds and quite different from more ordinary "mana." For this reason it is often very obvious when encountering the black arts that one is looking at something else entirely, which is especially seductive to those seeking "new sources of power" and discovering the secrets of lost knowledge. There is much more to "forbidden knowledge" than some cultural taboos. The historical origins of the black arts means that very often, its symbols and languages are demonic, or else born of some darkness. The "voice of Rhoska-Tor" is often used, as well, which is illustrative of an important point. Many races are not physically able to speak such languages.

This is another dimension of initiation among dark and sinister orders, as some taint of physical transformation is necessarily involved. The Faendryl do not as a rule enjoy the accusation that they are some warped facsimile of true elves. Nevertheless, the blackened wastes of Rhoska-Tor have left their mark on the Faendryl, and they are innately able to speak its language. They study the languages and powers of otherworldly beings, and collect this knowledge for their own thaumaturgy. Rituals of dark religions in contrast often use the local vernacular.

There are also more esoteric usages of eldritch languages. Demonic cultists will often "speak in tongues" in trances and perform some dark analog of spiritcalling in the native languages of demons. The runes or glyphs that are learned from infernal or extrachthonic sources are used in summoning and necromancy in the various senses of those words. Occultists especially will be prone to seeking out relics of cryptids or supposed elder races of pre-history. This is especially dangerous as they may be unearthing Ur-Daemon artifacts, or similar hazards, and attempting to make use of the glyphs on such relics without knowing their meaning. While there is much in the way of transient fashions and convention rearrangements over the span of Elven history, where knowledge is "discovered" and reinvented repeatedly over the millennia, the black arts are much more prone to having long buried secrets result in the return of lost knowledge.

(2) Forbidden Tomes

Forbidden knowledge may include matters that are relatively mundane, as some cultures prohibit and censor works that are allowed in other places. These are not necessarily works of magic or information that is "true," and may include heterodox theologies, or other kinds of heresy or knowledge that is suppressed by high authority. Orders such as the Watchers of the Eternal Eye are often interested in inconvenient truths and secrets the establishment does not want known or explored. Dark religious texts are often forbidden, for obvious reasons. The Common language abridgement of the Enchiridion Valentia may even be forbidden knowledge in some places, and ironically, it is forbidden for Faendryl to leave their lands carrying works of demonology.

Occult grimoires are often forbidden in their eclectic overlap of those issues. They tend to be highly distorted and works of charlatans. But they will also often contain diverse sources of occult knowledge, which may be dangerous in ways that are entirely without warning. These are most always rare and out of print works, if they were ever printed, rather than handwritten and illuminated manuscripts. So-called "anti-grimoires" will be part of this mix as well, due to the double edged sword of knowledge, where they may ironically be used for malign purposes.

The glib attitude of many advocates of "free knowledge," the opponents of censorship, is that knowledge is not inherently dangerous. It may be used for good or evil, and thus neutral, much as other weapons. Knowledge of the ways of darkness are important for knowing how to counter them. This is the eternal and endless struggle between those who try to suppress knowledge for its potential misuses, and those who seek to preserve it, so that it will be possible to defeat those misuses if or when they become issues later. "It is always best to know" versus "that which is too dangerous to be known." In truth it is possible for knowledge to be inherently dangerous, for it may bring the mind into contact with infernal or astral powers, and for working with such powers to be tainting or corrupting. It is possible for tomes of knowledge to be channels for wills, or embedded with sentient powers, which may then be imposed on the reader.

It is even possible to be possessed, in one way or another, through such a conduit or by drawing the attention of some power. Fundamentally we are not separate from the flows or planes, and as we may act on these forces, so too may these forces act upon ourselves. There are times when wielding more magical power makes one more vulnerable to malign influences, whether in being a more attractive vessel, or actually less able to resist them as with banaltra. Much as other "evil" artifacts, such tomes may compromise the will of the reader, even make them behave in other ways or cause some transformation. The Vvrael scrolls of Terate were such works. Bearers of esoteric books may find their emotions bent, especially if they wish to destroy them.

In other words, books may be "marked" or cursed, and may contain magic which is impossible to safely wield. There may be symbols in them such as "elder signs" with intrinsic preternatural powers from beyond the veil. The pages may be embossed or watermarked with subtle, cryptic patterns for subliminally manipulating those who look at them, or the margins may be decorated in sinister ways with similar effects. This may not be at all obvious. It might only seem to be some knight fighting a snail. There are esoteric patterns for making subconscious contacts. When such works have authentic powers, they become quite valuable, and will be rare and held in private collections. There are many examples of this in occult societies, whether the Maleficarum Incarnatus, the Lesser Key of Fash'lo'nae, or the Grimorium Infernus. What is most prized are writings purported to be impossibly old, which ought to pre-date known written records. This is sometimes in apocryphal works using languages which did not exist yet. These may be disputed as forgeries, just as charlatan gibberish may be authentic, or else made self-fulfilling.

Truly "eldritch" works of forbidden knowledge may be exceptionally bizarre, with parapsychic imputation of languages, and pseudo-alphabets or contrived systems of symbology. They might have a tripartite structure, where sentences run into corresponding pages in separate volumes, or they might have cryptic codes of numerology for interlacing words vertically through pages. It might be that the pages of the book are blank, and rather than only having invisible ink or moonlight runes or blood seals, the writing may be revealed and changed with the holder. There are situations where the book itself is dangerous. These might be made of humanoid flesh or bones, and will try to incorporate the living, first by transferring text onto their skin.

Still other works are more vulgar in their power, being powerful artifacts in their own right. The Book of Tormtor, if it ever truly existed, might have qualified. The book relic of "the Meek" of this world is somehow a conduit of cosmic power of balance between parallel material existences, perhaps endowed from a power vacuum in this way after the fall of the Drakes, and so the Meeks of the parallel worlds are all possessed of immense power through these constructed books. The Book of Ur is said to be a work of pure and unalloyed horror, able to turn people inside out, and was at one time held by the Sand Snakes until the Luukosian Order issued its theft. In the Hinterwilds there was the Tablet of Life and the Tablet of Death, counterparts of immense powers over those domains, with the ability to grow life and spawn undead respectively. These were returned to the River of Color by the Disir, after they tore apart the demi-lich Zeban. These are examples of powerful "tomes" which are bound to their wielders, essentially acting as amplifying confounds, and together would be able to wield truly immense power.

(3) Dangerous Artifacts

Artifacts may take any number of forms, depending on purpose, with only a loose correlation between size and power. There may be magic embedded in trinkets and intaglios, or there may be great monuments, or even vast edifices such as artificial mountains. One of the most common forms for powerful artifacts is a crystal sphere or shard. The Crescent of Toullaire is a moon-shaped crystal that was infused with fire in the burning of Archmage Hergios' manor in 4290. It was later used as a source of elemental power by the Arcanum and for the defense of the city. The Crescent is a siphon stone thought to have been an artifact of the Ur-Daemon or Drakes. It was also an artifact of chaos, absorbing its surroundings in the Wizardwaste, and became known as the Talon of Toullaire.

There is some reason to think it is somehow a counterpart of the Star of Khar'ta, which is known by many other names such as the Galestone, another immensely powerful artifact of storms and one which is said to absorb souls. The Star of Khar'ta has since been converted into an artifact of blood and shadow by Grishom Stone. It is able to dessicate and drain the blood out of the living, rain blood from the skies, and will make openings through the veil. Much as the Talon is able to "curse" and chaotically augment, such artifacts can have their own will and dominate the wielder.

There have been other artifacts in recent years which were bound to great powers, such as the Fier'Dracus with Avregol, one of the Great Fire Elementals. This was a sentient orb of obsidian that was shattered in 5106, its shards retaining vestiges of awareness: "I am the Fier'dracus, The Flame That Never Dies. Shattered I am for now, child of flesh, but dread the day when I am whole again, for you will burn for what you know." There are, of course, elemental metals with wills of their own, such as coraesine. There are weapons with some measure of sentience, and this is often from imbedding spirits or other powers in them, even cursed souls and demons. It is possible for artifacts with dark power to taint and eventually control their bearers. There are also weapons of various scales of power that trap or feed on souls and impart curses of undeath, such as wraith blades and necrotic rings, as well as weapons which inflict rotting incurable diseases such as those of Despana and the witch Raznel. These might compromise the will or impose bonds on the wielder or victim.

Then there are the "doomsday" weapons. Which is to say artifacts which are made not to wield power in some personal way, but instead are meant to explode and cause massive devastation. It was a blood marble obelisk of this nature which annihilated Talador and transformed it into the Bleaklands. The Dark Alliance at first intended on forming a cursed wasteland by rending the taint in the Griffin Sword. The Talon of Toullaire may well have exacerbated, if not played a role in causing, the formation of the Wizardwaste. Other relics of great reach are made with dark magic, even if it is not widely understood. The Mandis crystals involved significant blood sacrifices, and would make mages feel ill, well beyond merely siphoning the surrounding mana. It is no paradox that Baron Hochstib enlisted the aid of Luukosians in blood sacrifice rituals to infuse himself with Mandis. Anti-magic is often a quality of artifacts of darkness for various reasons.

Phylacteries are most often anti-magical to some extent, and artifacts are quite often involved in the transformations of lichdom. There are also the artifacts used to raise and leverage the undead in great numbers, such as the Sphere of Sorrow of the Horned Cabal. The Sphere of Sorrow in particular is an ancient artifact which traps the souls of the recently dead in their bodies. This power is inhibited by a known ritual that was imparted by Voln. Other such artifacts may be expected to conjure spirits into available bodies and curse them, or else they may summon the undead from some other realm. Hordes will in general require some form of leverage to mass undead and wield them hierarchically, where even liches rely on powerful necromantic artifacts to achieve this end. Shar was said to possess a powerful relic known as the Maelshyonic Triad, which her general Nyvelise tampered with in 5105, unleashing a wave over the continent which pierced the souls of sorcerers. The low necromancy of reanimating the dead became much more widespread, with Nyvelise's journal notes on it found near the mishap.

The Council of Ten from the halfling settlement of Icemule Trace were remarkable in terms of lichdom artifacts. Nine were still sealed away in a tomb. But those seals were damaged, and they were able to possess the living. It was said that they had brought themselves fully into the "plane of the undead" within that tomb, and then managed to magically toss out vessels from it, acting as anchors to this world. The Nine were thus wraithlike and sometimes survived as "demi-liches" if their vessels were destroyed. They were all highly anti-magical, and would feed on the spirit of others. Thurfel was a semi-living lich, and much as their possessed hosts, was not obviously undead. Their vessels were to be destroyed with the Staff of Amasalen, which was imbued with intense dark power. Allegedly from when he first became immortal. Thurfel truly sought to barter it, and the Nine, to Amasalen for ascension to godhood. This ended badly.

One may distinguish then between merely dangerous artifacts, such as the Griffin Sword and the Heart of Jaston, and those which are inherently dangerous because of the black arts. The most powerful artifacts of draining and capturing forms of magical power may well be threats even to the gods. The former may also become the latter when dark mages use those artifacts to manipulate more corruptive essences. There is a historical tendency to misattribute the phenomena around Rhoska-Tor to Maelshyve, or even the magic used in the Battle of Maelshyve, when in truth the dark essences and transformations of that land are very ancient. Artifacts used in that place are wont to bring such dark powers within themselves.

The Faendryl do not like to acknowledge that what they do is "dark magic." But even ordinary sorcery does violence to the fabric of reality, and naturally lends itself to drawing in bleedthrough from the veil. There is tacit admission of this issue in the severity of Faendryl laws regarding sorcery, especially the darker arts, and the prevalence of thaumaturgical asylums as a form of imprisonment. They play in the shallow end of the pool of corruption as a whole. But individuals are much less constrained. Much as the Palestra act as a kind of secret police and informant or spy network for the Basilica, mostly keeping an eye on potential rogue summoners and demonologists, there is much scrutiny on the matter of artifacts and ancient relics. There are deep and horrible powers that may be unearthed in the wastes, and it may not be necessary to breach the veil to bring the hazards of eldritch horrors. Antiquarians and archaeologists of various kinds will search for dangerous artifacts of darkness. Much as there are cultists who try to infiltrate secret socities, there are Faendryl who try to get relics away from bad actors.

OOC Disclaimers

Author's Note

This is the first draft of a document that would have been proposed years ago if the Wordsmiths program were still running or player submissions were solicited on general subject matters. For this reason it reaches further than I normally would into embellishment. It is actually meant to be three documents in separate but interrelated volumes. With Wordsmiths having not been available, it was written in a form that would still be useful as a player character essay. Because it is so very long and systematic, I am belaboring this point for other players: Please do not try to treat, or cite, its contents as official lore!

Ordinarily I would treat that as obvious and not needing saying, but in this case I want to give that special emphasis, because it inter-threads so many things that have only tacit or implicit lore. Parts of it might not even survive QC, or might need to be re-written or further developed, if it were sent through that process. This document is not necessarily static. I might amend it with updated versions to try to stay consistent with future developments.

You can use it for your own RP and in-character perspective. Official documentation on theory of magic and cosmology and NPC black arts at this level of thoroughness is unlikely to ever be written. It is written from the character author's theory-laden and sometimes contrary perspective, so it is biased, and potentially wrong or disputable on points. There are some points that are wholly made up, since it was intended to eventually be a Wordsmiths document. These tend to be highlighted. It is historiographic, not historical. In other words it is interpretation and characterization of history, something like narrative categories which may be disputed as academic fictions. Much is interpretation to synthesize many strands of lore, which are embellishments and extrapolations, or attempts at reconciling inconsistencies and ambiguities. These are not necessarily correct, and may get contradicted later.

There is an attempt to be approximately consistent (especially magic theory) with both DragonRealms and all time points of GemStone from 1989 through 2022, including the magic documentation on the play.net website that remains from Rolemaster Spell Law and everything related to the death mechanics, and trying to make a single coherent framework that works for both game mechanic and storyline premises. It de-emphasizes Luukos in favor of the many-sources-of-undeath in the Order of Voln messaging, along with de-emphasizing the most unrealistic aspects of the "Overview of Elanthian Magic" document. It interprets the death mechanics (including the Graveyard and Broken Land stories) from an IC perspective, but this aspect is especially vulnerable to future disruption, such as from Ebon's Gate festival storylines.

It is written in a purely IC form of postulated conventions or theory, and abstracted historical or cultural tendencies, to give a narrativized layer of insulation of generalization to minimize inventing specific concrete details whole cloth. (For example, it mostly avoids inventing specific NPCs, cultures, religious orders, place names, and so on.) This means other PCs and NPCs may have different conventions and organization schemes, and may characterize the history and various other things differently. This way if things develop inconsistent with it, it just reduces its applicability and explanatory power. Future developments in GemStone may require significant revising or re-writing parts of it, especially if basic premises made in it become especially inconsistent with new documents. Because of this potential, it has version numbers.

Legal Disclaimer

Simutronics has my permission to use or adapt this work into a canonical version in the future without my involvement if I am no longer present. It was originally intended for Wordsmiths, which presently is still defunct. If I am still present, I may be able to provide extensive footnotes offering line-by-line justifications, explanations, and cross-references. It was written to be highly internally consistent, so changing parts of it may create conflicts.

Highlight Key

Full footnotes of explanations would make this unreadable and more than twice as long. I am using highlights to emphasize when things are especially fabricated.

  • Bold highlights are totally made up "facts" and not canon at all. These are mostly made up quotes or book titles, or hard statements about geography or history. (This is not implying non-bold text has zero invention in it. I do not bold things that are the author's views or theorizing.)
  • Italic highlights are relatively strong embellishments or inferences to synthesize and make sense of disparate elements of the world setting. (This is not implying non-italic text has zero assumption or embellishment in it. For readability I mostly italicize the initial premise, not what follows from it.)
  • Bold italics or obvious section title highlights do not mean anything. (Whole sections are only highly made up if there is seemingly nothing established about it.)
  • The unhighlighted text is the IC author's biased view or interpretations, using his framework and conventions. It may be flawed or incomplete in various ways, or have more minor embellishments.

Version 1.0.0