Necromancy: the Sixth Gift

How it Works | Sodality | Undead | Uses | Return to Magic in Lyran Tal

Necromancy SymbolThis Almanac entry is here for the use of the player in an Out of Character fashion. The concept for this page - different from most others in the Almanac - is to illustrate how a student of the Sixth Gift might learn more himself about his craft. So, we delve into this tome, written in character, to provide an insight into the more mysterious world of Necromancy. Unless your character is a necromancer in training or a mage of many years experience and contacts within the world of necromancy, it is not likely that he will have even come across this book, but it is provided here as a means to explain the Sixth Gift of Lyran Tal Magic. For more information on the other gifts, see the Magic section of the Almanac. Enjoy.

Excerpts taken from the definitive work on the subject of Necromancy by Arabra Martesolver, Archmagus Emeritus.

Understanding What Necromancy Is

Necromancy is the magic of death and negative energy. Death is, of course, the absence of life. Negative energy permeates all of space and time; its natural propensity is to expand the material world around it, thus breaking it down. Negative energy takes positive energy and disperses it, resulting in chaos within a living thing, entropy and typically, death.

While there are schools for Gifts One through Five, there is no school of necromancy. It is impractical and unsafe for the necromancer to form a school - though some utterly mad sorts have attempted to do just that. The sane Necromancer is a secretive sort. In the wake of the wholesale slaughter of necromancers at the hands of the Belladonna Sodality in Goldfall of 1261, masters of necromancy have proven difficult to find. They are reclusive throughout the region, much like the author himself, protected by their shadowy craft, understandably leery of the rest of the civilized world.

Therefore, it must be understood that a necromancer learns his craft from those who have gone before him. There are those in Balthazor that encourage the clearly talented to pursue their ability by finding a master of their craft and becoming his apprentice. Once found, it is up to the master whether or not he will take on a student. If he is generous and not completely jaded by the treatment of his craft at the hands of necromancy's creations, a master of necromancy may take on as many as five students at a time. Most will not tutor more than two. The rite of passage to mastery in the craft is solely up to the master to grant. Some master necromancers will keep an apprentice for a lifetime; others will teach him minimally and then push him on his way. The would-be sorcerer must prove that he is not merely out to destroy those who practice the dark art before he will be trusted enough to be granted the title of apprentice.

Understanding How Necromancy Works

Life and life magic are the building blocks of death and entropy. The master Necromancer cannot create life, but, oh, he can manipulate positive energy, twisting it via the ley magic - giving it that specialized little shove it needs to turn it to his purpose. This is his gift, this is the essence of necromancy and those of the other gifts find this nigh impossible to comprehend. This cannot be learned without the born-in talent, as with all of the gifts, though some areas of the seven gifts do tend to ...overlap ...despite the insistence of many a learned mage that they do not. A geomancer, for example, cannot become a necromancer simply if he tries hard enough. (Not that a geomancer can do much of anything productive, mind.) The necromancer can empower a corpse or a skeleton with negative energy. The dispersal of that energy will power the undead form to do the master's bidding for varying lengths of time; some necromancers will employ apprentices solely to this purpose, teaching them nothing else beyond the raising of the dead.

Dead raised in such a fashion will do the will of their master until the negative energy wreaks its destruction upon the corpse even as it provides animation and obedience to the master's will. There are those who have tried to maintain a single undead indefinitely. It inevitably fails. To date, the only ongoing successful animation of a corpse - outside the questionable methods of those in the Belladonna Sodality and certainly Irmaa Vep herself - is the author's cat, Murry. But Murry takes very little negative energy to maintain due to his diminutive size. Mice, rats and other such small creatures could also be used, but none of them would last should the magic be left to its own destructive devices. Ultimately, if left on his own, Murry would fall into decay and dust, all the while attempting to do its master's will. With regular maintenance, Murry has lasted some ten years. He will not last forever. Larger creatures would last far less time. It is much easier to raise a new undead than to maintain an older one. Such a corpse, however, will continue to do its master's will until the negative energy destroys it. Until that happens, fire is the foremost means of its destruction, and therefore the undisputed enemy of the undead. (Bloody pyromancers.) A necromancer's greatest vulnerabilities, and those of his manipulations, are light and flame. Both hold positive energy - light in a more concentrated, lawful manner; fire in its chaotic state. Therefore, the necromancer's magic is most effectively opposed by pyromancy and the undisciplined seventh gifters, intolerably styled animancy. (Cursed mixed mages, all of them!)

Yes, certainly, it is to be understood that necromancers, the living human (don't talk to me about those elves who call themselves necromancers!) creatures who practice the Sixth, and arguably, the best gift, can be murdered like any other human creature. Vulnerable to light and fire, sword and club, they will bleed out in the typical fashion. The trouble is, a necromancer may have preparations made for his untimely venture into death and it might not be very long at all after he is murdered that he will seek revenge on the one or ones who sent him too soon to the arms of his dark mistress. Fire, then, is the only hope of the would-be destroyer and any necromancer worth his shadow will have protections against it, mark that well!

Necromancers have a limited degree of control over spirits. Communication is possible, but actual control is much harder as their essence is not strongly linked to either positive or negative energy. The spirits are more tied to the Twixt and the energies from that reality. (It must be noted that the harridan, Archmagess Vep's, ability to enter the Twixt is a personal one, and not tied to the power of necromancy.)

Each region has its own set of rules on becoming an Archmage. Balthazor's rule is simple: Assassination. However, magic is keyed to the individual, and if one without the necromantic gift were to assassinate the Archmagess of Necromancy, he would not simply inherit the power. Many have tried! Most recently, the claim was made by one Renol Duvualt. Vep is still the archmagess. Without natural necromantic power, such a usurper would most likely be assassinated within the hour by either another necromancer or one of the Belladonna Sodality. There are exceptions to every rule, however. From time to time a necromancer might lose power and there would be little need then to kill him in order to replace him.

A Word (or Two) About the Sodality

The Belladonna Sodality, that highly secretive, mysterious group of assassins and murderers, is dealth with elsewhere in this work, yet mention of it cannot be overlooked here. Rumored to be free-willed undead, the undead of the Sodality have one enemy: the elves. The elves remember better than any of us. The destruction of the elven way of life is their aim. They have one other goal: the elimination of all Necromantic Mages throughout the Empire. Why is this so? No one seems to know. Speculation is made elsewhere in these writings and the reference made here is only to emphasize that the undead mind degenerates over time. The proof of this is in the hatred the Sodality bears not only to the green, growing, thriving world of life that is Arboria and her people, but also in the unreasonable desire to destroy that which created it. It is contended here that the only reason the Sodality survives or has survived for so long is the possession of a connection to a prime location of ley power. While this is disputed in necromantic circles, the author has been privileged by the Sodality to see the source, if not permitted to know the location, and writes with authority. Imagine a mill with a waterfall to run it of massive scale - that is the picture of the Sodality. Somewhere in Balthazor, undiscovered as yet, is a ...well ...of power; a direct connection to raw ley power that the Sodality is bound to. They play a dangerous game, these free-willed undead. They escape the nurturing control of a necromantic master and they think to 'live' forever, bathed in their raw magic. But that is not life, after all, is it?

The Undead

It is vital to note that, unlike the Seventh Gift, which affects the spirits of all things, living and dead, necromancy is only effective on the spirits of those who died violently. If the necromancer was not present at the time of said violent death, it would be a wise step to have handy a spell of divining to discover the means of death of the deceased, otherwise, a necromancer could potentially waste time and energy on a corpse that merely drifted sweetly off into that deep sleep for which all are destined. Also, the spirit must be that from the *recently* violently undead to be used in servants with any sort of self will. The necromancer does not discriminate. The spirit of one corpse may be used to animate the long dead body of an altogether different subject. Without a freshly dead spirit, however, the necromancer is left with the mindless undead that is the mainstay of necromantic minions.

There are two categories of undead that the necromancer may raise - the physical undead and the spiritual. The necromancer deals largely with the physical, though it is impossible to create an undead without, on some level, dealing with the spiritual aspects of negative energy. It must be understood that the debate about this has raged in the schools of the other magical gifts for some time. Suffice it to say, spirit magic as a Gift is not Necromancy but Necromancy does deal in some measure with spirit magic. This is not to say that necromancy is a mixed magic or will drive its practitioner insane. Then again, the points of view of many in the disciplines of the other gifts are that dealing with negative energy is itself insanity. Regardless, necromancers know intuitively what they do; to explain it to the rest of the waking world is a waste of a necromancer's time. A master will make these things clear to his apprentice and that clarity can take a lifetime to grasp.

The Physical: Here, only the rudimentary fundamentals are dealt with to help the layman conceptualize what it is he might find when encountering the undead. The physical undead can be broken down further into groups: those who are mindless, those with limited reason, and those who are 'higher' undead, also called 'free-willed.'

The Spiritual: The spiritual side of necromancy is likewise divided into groups, this time only two. The first is the incorporeal undead based on former living creatures drawn from the positive energy of such beings upon their death and turned to negative energy creating such things as ghosts, spectres, fetches and the like. These ...creatures are intelligent; they have desires/dreams/fears and other characteristics that we typically associate only with the living. They can be capricious and troublesome, but are occasionally useful. Once made, they are dominated more by the very will of the necromancer than by negative magic, thus they are easy to bring about but often difficult to control beyond a single task. They are drawn to the living with a rapacious fascination, often desiring most to be what they once were and thus sometimes, sometimes, escape their creator's control to attach themselves to other powerful, living beings. Daylight often dispels such necromantic spirits. Positive energy in the form of fire rarely has much effect but for their dislike for it. 'Light' as brought about by animancers will permanently dispel such creatures as well. (So the animancer is good for something, after all.)

The second group of spiritual undead is incorporeal creatures - arguably not undead - based solely on negative energy drawn from the necromancer himself. These servants are known primarily, interchangeably, as shadows and shades. They exist only to please the master as they are utterly built of his will bound with negative energy. They may have fully defined forms (people, animals, spectral creatures) if the mage chooses, but these things are artifice only. The shadow or shade is capable of interacting with the physical world much like the risen undead, but the expense of energy is a constant flow from the master to the creation. Without him, they do not exist unless special dispensation is made to bind the mage's will and energy to an item. Regarding durability, the risen undead are preferable - a onetime use of power provides longevity. Disposal of the risen undead, is, of course, a messy and often noisy process. The shadow or shade is often used in situations that call for a keenly focused servant who is there as soon as need for it arises. Often more productive, more attuned to the mage and dismissed with a flick of the fingers, the shade or shadow is a handy servant when undead simply aren't available. They last only so long as he pleases. They can be used by other mages of power if they stray too far from the master's sphere of influence but only so long as said mage supplies them with malice or hatred, dark energies in their own right.

For more detailed information, please see 'The Undead and Other Creatures, in Depth.'

Other Practical Uses of Necromancy

While the turning of the dead into undead servants is the mainstay of necromancy in Balthazor and throughout the Empire (make no mistake, necromancy is everywhere), there are other uses of the craft for practical everyday living. Here is a simple, practical list of just some of the endless possibilities of Necromancy:

  • Bone Cordon - Raising undead 'bits' when full skeletons aren't available and an army is impractical is a very useful means of defense. The bits are animated and stacked in walls. These walls can be any size for any place: A ring about a fortress to keep out the curious; a barrier in a corridor; a gap in a stone wall, and so on. Gnashing teeth of the undead skeleton is a particularly nice touch, as are groping skeletal fingers. Many necromancers use this as a gold-maker. Warlords, thugs and other mages are always looking for protections against invaders.
  • Deflection - Spells infused with negative energy can provide lasting, damaging effects to intruders on lockboxes, treasure houses, doors, gateways, tunnels - the applications are endless. The Ward need not be deadly; a withered hand is deterrent enough. Necromantic marks on store houses are often plenty of warning to keep the potential thief from plying his larcenous ways on the client wise enough to procure a necromancer to protect his riches.
  • Demons - Demons and other nether creatures can be controlled by the necromancer who has the skill of years, the right spells and the proper enticements but the control of such things can be as dangrerous as it is potentiall rewarding and the necromancer must exercise extreme caution at every step.
  • Pestilence - Some positive energy is so destructive on its own that it begs to be turned to the necromancer's use. Diseased beings raised as undead can be used to infect an entire village should the necromancer need revenge, or to clear out an area under his influence. Once the living are dispensed with, their remains can be raised and the easy repetition of this application becomes clear.
  • Dilapidation - This permits the Necromancer to suck the positive energy from the life around him, dispensing it. This is especially useful for removing wooden barricades by desiccating the wood to dust. THIS IS NOT TO BE CONFUSED with that abomination of magic twisted to alter time known distastefully as kronomancy. The necromancer does not AGE wood or stone. The necromancer removes the residual positive energy of the life of the tree or the living rock turns it to negative energy by the exercise of his craft. By doing so, the necromancer also removes the substance that gives the wooden barricade or the stone wall its strength. It is, of course, especially effective against all manner of geomantic obstacles.
  • Keening - When death comes to a living being, necromancers can, via the leys, sense the ripping asunder of positive life force from the violently dying body. This allows them opportunity, if they are quick, to shadow walk to the disturbance in order to be present to secure the departed energy in a kanopas.
  • Kanopas - An enchanted vessel for holding a recently departed spirit/ positive energy/ for use later in animating a limited-reasoning or free-willed undead.


For more information on Necromancy, contact:

The Balthazor Region Leader

Return to Magic in Lyran Tal | Home