General Category => General Discussion => Topic started by: Rayblon on September 05, 2018, 08:11:35 AM

Title: A brief thesis of rot, the undead, and potential countermeasures.
Post by: Rayblon on September 05, 2018, 08:11:35 AM
As it is known, undead, to sustain their unnatural and in many ways parasitic existence, take in the energies local to them. This fact in itself is not aberrant, of course, as the dead constitute a void within which the worlds vital energies are drawn into and presumably lost. However, these masses1 which experience undeath are not simply voids to be filled, but entities that also exhaust natural energies to continue their existence, as any introductory text in the art of necromancy would evidence; in more clinical terms, while a corpse passively drains life around it of its vigor, the undead also actively consume it. It could be said that they have the energetic needs of the living, while the means of manufacture for these energies is absent. Whether they themselves have some aptitude for drawing these energies in or if this void is simply strengthened by undeath is another issue entirely, and beyond the extent of my knowledge.

I posit that the above facts have distinct implications concerning the nature of decay and the longevity of the undead. Before presenting my concerns as they relate to the undead, I would like to present what I believe to be critical supplementary information; two brief studies of posthumous preservation.

Case one: Tar and peat bogs harbor a natural preservatory quality; dead plants remain instead of composting into soil, and more relevantly, long dead carcasses can be found and extracted still intact, despite no special funerary preparations(and indeed, one would just as easily find a man riddled with arrows as they would an unfortunate bird of prey or fox). While these bodies can experience some decay and often are devested of natural coverings such as hair, fur, and feathers, there are many specimens with little to no visible evidence of decay; something that a few choice cult societies have come to worship and integrate into a sort of burial by water. While there is still yet evidence of rigor mortis, toughening of the skin and in some instances withering, the more emergent properties of rot are entirely prevented or diminished, at the cost of a dark and pervasive staining of the body2.

Just as these bogs are inclined to preserve the dead, they are particularly disinclined to sustain life. So drained of vitality is the earth here, that many of the plants of these places resort to hunting and consuming what animals and insects dare venture through. The waters themselves are barren, so much so that even the vegetative aquatic slime that would be green and lively in adjoining wetlands are brown and soured beneath the water; any green in these places proves itself to be but a thin veneer over a much more necrotic circumstance. Such are the waters that these preserved bodies can be found in -- they remain divorced from life and its endemic energies beneath these waters, and are thus preserved.

Case two: While natural preservation of bodies can be observed in arid climes(usually limited to the bones and their marrow, as carrion birds and other scavengers prove quite thorough), of particular interest is the burial practices within these areas, which prove to be quite extensive and effective depending on their station, and more importantly, their wealth. The most extensive ceremonies, from cursory study of the more publicly available materials and observable rituals, their preservatory methods are somewhat complex and varied. In the interest of brevity, I shall note only such processes that confer a preservatory effect to the musculature and skeleton of the body.

The body’s vital organs are extracted individually, primarily to preserve the body but also for ritual and burial purposes(perhaps lingering energies from recently consumed food contributes to decay). The body and extracted organs are then lightly covered in cloth and immersed in salt for several weeks, isolated from the elements. It is unknown why, but this process results in extensive drying of the body, though whether this truly has a preservatory effect or simply hastens the natural withering of the dead merits further investigation -- it is unlikely that it has any effect, given case 1’s effectiveness despite aquatic conditions. The corpses are then coated in a binding agent before being tightly wrapped in cloth and sealed in airtight sarcophagi, which are themselves within sealed temples of sorts. While some are stocked with food and drink, these are in sealed containers as well.

It should be noted too, that during my time in this region, I learned of bodies preserved in this way being used as guardians, connected to traps and animated using complex magic circuits. I have procured one such circuit from a group of passing adventurers(though they could have just as easily been graverobbers by trade). Although the circuit was badly damaged, there is evidence that the (since removed) crystal element would have been heavily insulated from the bodies3.

These two cases represent diverse natural and artificial conditions within which dead masses may be preserved for a duration far exceeding that of simple embalming or use of rose water and other aromatic oils. In contrast is, of course, our most sacred consecration of flesh through fire. However, while less effective and immediate, just as fauna are quickly lost to woodland soils, the burial rites of the alvani elves demand that bodies be implanted with seeds and placed within the energy saturated soils of their forests. Within a fortnight, even the bones of the dead seem to crumble and become consumed by these otherwise normal herbs and saplings. Similar effects can be observed in nonmagical forests and tropical climes, but occur at a much slower rate. It is believed that burials of this nature inoculate the foliage planted there against fluctuations in the natural energies of the forest.

It would seem that there exists a constant among the preserved. In contrast to the natural world, these preserved dead are far separated from life, be it because they are separated by stone and wraps, or because they have been immersed in deathly waters. I posit that this isolation from life energies allows further preservation due to the vital energies being a natural enemy to the constitution of dead(and undead) flesh. The historical undead circuit that was recovered seems to corroborate this understanding, as do the much more longevitous undead of the coming threat, which are themselves naturally isolated from vital energies by the aura of their masters. Thus, the longevity of any active undead is likely contingent upon strict rationing of energy, such that no excess can remain to erode their corporeal bindings. It may be possible to cripple the coming threat in this way(or at least weaken any of our fallen brothers and sisters), by carrying mass reservoirs of life energy to encourage the rot and putrefaction of these abominations in an emulation of alvani soils. While it would not yield immediate results, these reservoirs would likely serve as a useful ward against their miasma as well. We may also be able to limit their mobility or rot their armies without any loss of life by cultivating more energetically dense regions similar in nature to the alvani forests. Further research is needed to learn the specific thresholds that yield rot in the undead, as their active consumption of life energy may result in an elevated resistance to energetic decomposition.

May peaceful nights and living men prevail.

Authored in the Bladeira after the 341 before it graced by the One True Moon and One True Mother Niddhyl, written by doctor of worldly energies bartholomeus avarel eccladius under the purview of His Holiness, Archbishop Ikan Parthing.

1:I elect to address undead entities as masses instead of bodies, as the latter is often not an appropriate description given the more extensive and macabre mutilations that necromancers may carry out in their heretical practices.

2: As preserving food is an eminent concern, I would be remiss not to note that while specimens are preserved almost indefinitely in this environ and retain some level of proper consistency, these bodies prove quite offensive to ones faculties, and I anticipate that more extensive consumption of fauna preserved in this way would prove quite toxic, if not fatal. While I have not tested that presumption at length, its unsavoriness would make for rather trying eating regardless.

3: These same adventurers offered some variety of dried meat for purchase as well, which my associate and subordinate, disciple Ferndal, has confirmed to be edible, if peculiar in taste and composition. The origin of this meat is quite obvious, though it does evidence this process to be a potential method of preservation that is more effective than traditional curing and drying methods for foodstuff. As per doctrine, the dead flesh was promptly burned and spread following examination.