This article is an explanation and history of necromancy in Meranthe. It doesn't go into the details of how necromancy works or any lore secrets, which can be discovered in-character or added to this page later.
Necromancy is the art of raising the dead, either as subservient zombies or by recalling a soul from its resting place, to serve at the command of the necromancer. Necromancers often pursue this path for their own selfish ends, either as a quick shortcut to power or on a quest for everlasting life. Novice necromancers might begin their journey by graverobbing, killing and reviving small animals and other petty horrors, while those with a mastery over undeath can threaten to topple entire nations.
In Meranthe, Necromancy is most closely associated with Caius, the primordial of Death. Some necromancers consider themselves worshipping Caius with their acts, while others consider the undoing of death as sacrilege to that same god of Death. This contrast has led to many disputes between necromancers. None can deny that the primordial has some influence over this dark magic, and his love and obsession with Lady Death herself has inspired many, including Ozmandius Tal.
History of Necromancy
The First Age
Necromancers in Meranthe did not flourish during the first age. With Azrael at the head of the divine war and the influence of primordials so strong across the continent, those that attempted to bring the teachings of the fallen angel found little purchase. Some legends say that Caius was imprisoned in Mount Pavovis during this time; others say that he defied Azrael's vision and remained where he was of his own free will, his love and soul dedicated solely to Mortys.
While liches rose and fell in distant lands such as Valmasia, very little of the dark art permeated through Meranthe until the twilight years of the first age, when scholars began to divert their studies into the life and insight of Caius towards the longing of death. Eventually it became an obsession with overcoming mortality. Sketchy records suggest that foreign necromantic agents may have influenced former devout followers of Caius to this new, dark interpretation of their religion, leading to the first necromancers of Meranthe. As the old nation of Vdalion fell into decline, these necromancers became ever bolder, searching to raise the fallen giants as their own siege monstrosities.
The Second Age
As turmoil continued throughout Meranthe and city-states rose and fell, the great emperor of old nowhere to be found, necromancy began to spread across the land in secret places. Rumours of graverobbing, kidnappings, wicked rituals to Caius and Mortyl preceded these acts. With the existing nations constantly at war with each other, necromancers found ways to band together and grow their power, creating armies outside of the corpse piles left by endless war. Greedy Nephilim, ever in search of more power, started to take notice. It was the year 1286 when the first ascension ritual took place and Meranthe's first Lich, Aldis Tal, walked the earth. With his army of living and dead servants he attempted to stage a coup on a city state long disbanded, but failed and was ultimately destroyed.
Following such a brazen act, the reputation of necromancy nosedived sharply and soldiers of civilized areas would keep a close eye out for those entwined with the art. Bodies were often cremated and burial grounds kept under close guard. Rumours of blackened water and a deathly stench being signs of a necromancer spread like wildfire. While ambitious figures rose and fell throughout the next few centuries, it was not until the late 1800's that necromancy saw a true resurgence at the hands of Ozmandius.
This is a summary of historic events; for more information on Ozmandius, click here.
Born of a wealthy noble house, Ozmandius had the natural charm, charisma and power of a destined leader. Taking advantage of a shortage of manpower in Delphina at a time of war, Ozmandius managed to convince the progressive and foolhardy leaders that necromancy could be the solution. Under his guidance, new necromancers were trained and Delphina's enemies- an expeditionary force of Barsburg- were defeated soundly in the year 1896 to a resounding sigh of relief from all denizens of the country. After the showing of might, Barsburg decided not to pursue the war effort further.
In the next years necromancy would become accepted and even fashionable, in what was termed 'white necromancy'- as long as it was all approved by the state and the church of Caius for a good cause, it was a worthwhile endeavour and could even lead to true resurrection. That was the propaganda at the time; necromancers went to lengths to make their undead servants seem presentable and civil, even if they remained the same tortured souls that they always were. It spread across the entire country, with Ozmandius at the head of it, for several decades. In 1947 Ozmandius would take on the mantle of lich and adapt the honorific 'Tal'.
The truth was that Ozmandius Tal had no desire to pursue 'true resurrection' and other altruistic falsities. To him, they were simple and believable lies to keep the populace occupied as he worked on his own agenda in secret for decades, amassing enough power to rival even the demigods that stalked the world. He had learned from the mistakes of those before him and worked in secret, rather than attempting to overthrow his nation.
The Golden Age of Necromancy
Scholars write that the 'Golden Age of Necromancy' began in 1896 with the defeat of Barsburg and continued until 1972 with the true death of Ozmandius Tal.
In this time, the dark art was respected and even revered, though there were not as many practitioners of it as there were traditional magics. It was a difficult skill to pick up that required a disquieting comfort with corpses and ones own mortality. During the early days it was popular rhetoric to consider how great necromancy could be in reshaping the world; the naive people of Meranthe had never known the horrors of the Divine War and those that fought in Azrael's misguided ideals, so these concepts of altruistic, beneficial undeath easily took root. Nobles would sponsor young necromancers in quests to extend their own youth and remain head of the house.
Most necromancy at this time followed the teachings of Ozmandius, the principals he set forward, almost like a new religion. From this spawned countless works, including the 'Litany of Undeath' which is used by most necromancers to this day when chanting rituals. For decades, these teachings spread like a plague- at least, until the true plagues began.
Only a few years after Ozmandius' ascension did the signs become more apparent, as he devoted less of his resources to covering up the adverse effects of the art. Once verdant fields had become husks of dried grass and dirt, plantlife withered into nothingness, swamps taking hold on farmland that should never have sunken to such a state. The stench of death began to permeate cities, first from the lower areas- where abductions and corpse harvesting most frequently took place. It became less and less popular to turn a blind eye to the shameless abducting of the poor and downtrodden as the waft of undeath clung to the walls of the cities.
There was never a true exodus of necromancers, rather it became a quietly disrespected practise across all the major cities. The only exception, of course, was for the wealthy and high ranking- for them it was a useful and ambitious tool. For anyone else, they were quickly seen as power hungry fools and ostracized. Rumours even began to follow around Ozmandius himself in his great tower near Delphina. Rumours of carts full of corpses, of wicked experiments, of creating abominations of stitched together flesh and souls and of clawing for divine power.
Eventually, the leader of Delphina called for his arrest, sending their finest magi. Ozmandius was killed and phylactery destroyed, though any survivors of the battle later died from his curse. Later it was revealed that the lich had survived, taking his revenge on the leader in a brazen murder and declaring his immortality. The next few years would be spent hunting down the many phylacteries of Ozmandius Tal, led by Martzel, divine descendant of Ualdir and veteran of the Divine War.
In the end both the lich and the champion would be destroyed, with the resting place deep underground so infused with death energy that no one could hope to enter, its location lost to time. The Last Grave.
With the death of Ozmandius Tal, his close apprentices scattered to the wilderness or took refuge in other cities and selectively took on their own prospects. Any necromancers who were caught and didn't immediately disavow the teachings of the lich were banished, imprisoned, or executed. So great had been Ozmandius' influence and charisma that, while they condemned the lich himself, those that followed his dogma were oft secretly sought after for power and deals, particularly by the Realm of Aphros, even if they deny it publicly. One way or another, Ozmandius Tal had cemented his legacy as the father of the modern principals of necromancy and his influence had spread across Meranthe. Most necromancers follow his teachings and practise whether they know it or not.
Many that had survived the Golden Age or read about it yearn to bring back this time of splendour, where corpses piled so highly outside the cities and the reek of deathly mana permeated the air such that the dead were almost begging to be brought back to life.
Playing a Necromancer
Modern necromancy in Meranthe largely follows the teachings of Ozmandius Tal, with only the last few decades offering suggestions of deviating to different principals. Necromancy is a ritual-based art, with lower undead simply puppeted corpses and higher undead involving the recalling of spirits or even souls into different undead bodies. The methods and philosophy of necromancy can be found in the Litany of Undeath, a short tome which provides several chants and procedures.
Some scholars suggest that older, less edited versions of the Litany of Undeath exist. Other scholars argue that the 'chants' in the Litany are actually prayers to Caius. Ozmandius himself never made it clear, delicately and wickedly stoking the fires of that debate right up to his death, as he knew it would encourage further studying of necromancy and quarrelling.
The Litany of Undeath
A short but precious booklet, barely more than a dozen pages, inscribing chants for major rituals of undeath and how a necromancer must conduct oneself. The Litany of Undeath does not teach the basics of necromancy or the ascension ritual to become a lich, a deliberate choice that leaves apprentice necromancers at the mercy of mentors. Upon becoming a full necromancer, masters will provide a copy of the Litany to their student.
Necromancers can refer to the Litany of Undeath on how to properly care for bodies, how to raise specific types of undead, how to emulate functions of the living, how to behave as a student and as a teacher, the purpose of necromancy and the value of strength. For a full reading click here.
- The Litany of Undeath is forbidden in the two major powers of Dal’Thala and Aphros as well as most of the civilized world. It is permitted within the nation of Vdalion.
- While the majority of existing necromancers possess a copy of the Litany and follow its philosophy, an increasing number decide to follow their own path.
- Legally it is not a religious text, despite having many similarities to such.
- A common greeting shared in the Litany is 'Grace given' and a common farewell is 'Walk softly'.