Necromancy is the use of souls of the dead to perform various tasks. Although it comes in many forms, all necromancy boils down to two basic steps:
- Obtain a soul
- Use the soul
A soul can only affect the physical world by influencing energy and emotions. For more material effects, the soul must be bound to a physical object. This is done by using magic to create vital energy, which anchors the soul to any object of the necromancer’s choosing.
Dead bodies are often favored because they already contain all the mechanisms necessary to facilitate movement (bones, muscles, etc.), allowing the soul to perform any action a living being can perform. It is relatively easy to bind a soul to its original body, but extremely difficult to bind it to different body. There are many theories as to why this is, but the most popular is that the soul and body retain some “memory” of each other.
Inanimate objects are moderately difficult binding targets, but unlike appropriate corpses, they are easily obtainable. Therefore, inanimate objects are favored whenever the necromancer’s designs do not require animation.
There are two main categories of necromancy:
- Zetressian Necromancy
- Nezachimic Necromancy
These two categories differ mainly in how they obtain souls.
Zetressian necromancy is essentially a contract between the necromancer, the soul, and the goddess of death, Zetres. The process cannot be started unless Zetres allows it; and if the soul in question is unwilling, nothing much will come of it.
The general process is as follows:
- Pray to Zetres
- Ask for a soul and explain the intended purpose
- If both Zetres and the soul are willing, Zetres returns the soul to the mortal plane
- Bind the soul (if necessary for the task)
- Perform the task
- Release the soul
- If the soul was bound, unbind it by destroying the vital energy
- Zetres reclaims the soul
- If both Zetres and the soul are willing, this step may be postponed indefinitely
Compared to other forms of necromancy, Zetressian necromancy has several advantages:
- Infinite source of souls
- Relatively easy to perform
- Unlikely to incur divine wrath if done properly
There are also a few drawbacks, however, depending on one’s point of view:
- Requires devotion to Zetres
- Reliant on the willingness of both Zetres and the contracted soul
Zetressian necromancy is exceedingly rare. In fact, there is only one culture known to practice it.
Nezachimic necromancy is the most common and widely known form of necromancy. It was invented by the fallen god Nezachim during the Age of Innocence in an attempt to usurp Azrim’s place as the god of life.
Nezachimic necromancy is the enslavement of a soul, usually against its will, without the blessing of Zetres. Zetressian necromancy can become Nezachimic if the necromancer violates the will of Zetres at any point during the process (e.g., uses the soul for evil or refuses to release the soul upon completion of the task). More often, however, Nezachimic necromancy obtains its souls in one of two ways:
- Kill a sentient being and bind its soul at the moment of death, preventing it from escaping
- Capture a lost soul, a free soul that for whatever reason has not left the mortal plane
Once a soul is captured, the necromancer can use it however and for as long as they wish.
Nezachimic necromancy has a few notable advantages over its Zetressian counterpart:
- No limits on what can be done with the soul
- No other commitments (i.e., to Zetres) required
But of course, there are several disadvantages as well:
- Difficult to perform
- Unwilling souls are not as powerful as willing souls
- May incur divine wrath
When a soul is bound to a body by necromancy (as opposed to the natural bond present in all living beings), it is generally referred to as undead.
Due to the body’s decay, an undead’s physical abilities are hindered. This handicap may be slight if the body is fresh enough. Professional necromancers often keep a store of embalmed corpses on hand in order to mitigate—though not entirely eliminate—this problem.
The unnatural nature of a necromantic bond has a few side effects. Involuntary bodily systems no longer function. That means no breathing, no heartbeat, no digestion, etc. It also means an undead will not heal naturally. Any damage sustained is permanent unless healed via magic. But this also comes with an advantage: because the bond is independent of the state of the body, an undead can never be truly killed by conventional means. A butchered undead will, as long as the necromancer maintains the bond, continue to “live”. Even burning an undead to ashes is insufficient to break a well-maintained necromantic bond—although a necromancer will likely move the soul to a new, more useful body at that point.