Forces of the Undead
“The Darkness.The Risen, Those of death and shadow. The undead.”
Forces of the Undead.
“The Dwarves dug too deep into the places of the world that had never known light. The low vaults of the world concealed creatures that had never known the skies only unending darkness in the cold depths of the mountains. They were long thought to be a myth by the Dwarven people, a story told to scare children to stop them venturing through the tunnels after hours for fear the shadows would eat them. They opened the passages and through them The Darkness rose.”
Attributed to an Elven historian, recalling the tales of the Fallen Holds.
The name “Draugr” (Pron; Draw-ger) comes from the Dwarven “To rise from darkness”, the word has changed since it was first coined but shares a basic background. The original meaning came from the practice of drawing water up from deep wells within a mine, an old saying went that the process carried darkness up from below the mountains. Since it has come to be the name of the forces that rose up against their nation. The translation into the Common tongue now simply means “Undead”.
The rise of the undead and The Shadow War sundered the dwarven nations, tearing the heart out of the mountain realm.
In its wake after a bitter and hard won victory the Empire of Steel and Stone was formed.
The vile darkness
There are many different kinds of undead that have been classified by the races of the world since they were first seen but they can be most easily broken down into two major categories.
Those that have been reanimated from the corpses of one or more victims of The Draugr. The exact process the corpses undergo in order rise once again is unknown but the few eyewitness accounts tell of corpses consumed by shadowy energies that causes them to be brought back to some sick mockery of life. The presence of a reanimated corpse is seen as abhorrent by cultures within the world, something that goes against the natural order and should be destroyed.
The most basic form of undead, formed from a single corpse of a fallen victim. The body is reanimated from death and into the service of the Draugr. It is noted that bodies risen in this way become more resilient to damage though their movements are slowed. Many make claim that there are subtle differences between undead of these type. Some appearing faster or more savage in their actions which has given rise to numerous different names to define these creatures. Such creatures have been seen in varying states of decay of damage. Examples have been observed to be able to perceive their surrounding despite the lack of eyes.
A stronger form of the basic risen, they appear to form some kind of leadership role to the basic undead. Acting as unit commanders or simple focuses for the collective force. They are capable of wielding weaponry with skill and anticipate potential threats. Communication comes in the form of barked sounds, however basic it can be used to coordinate assaults.
Those gifted with skill in magic who fall to the Draugr have been observed to return as beings that have been dubbed “Liches”. Within the undead forces they seem to have a greater amount of freedom as noted amongst the Revernants. In place of any magics they may have had in life Liches channel shadow energies and are capable to reanimating the dead. A greater level of intelligence has been observed within Liches, capable of fluent speech. It is possible the effects of death have caused no loss in their cognitive functions as seen in other undead. Some have claimed they could be those who gave themselves willingly into the service of the Draugr, others comment how unthinkable such an act would be.
One of the most feared types of undead yet encountered by the living, formed when multiple beings die at the same time the bodies and souls of the fallen are fused together into hideous creatures of flesh and shadow. Hideous in appearance they tower over those around them, with a strength great enough to tear an armoured warrior limb from limb. Seemingly mindless, they are terrors of the battlefield, raging through the lines sowing chaos accompanied by the tortured cries of those souls imprisoned within their form.
Those undead do not appear to have a physical form. They were the first types of undead encountered, many that saw them believes the creatures to be the returned spirits of their lost loved ones. Unlike the majority of risen who appear to have only the most basic cognitive abilities the forms of spectral undead all are capable of greater intelligence.
Ghost/ Spirit/ Spectre
The simplest form of Spectral undead they appear as disembodied souls. Taking the image of their former selves during life. Such kinds of undead have been encountered before the Draugr appeared in the world and it is theorised that they could be a form of “naturally occurring” undead that the Draugr can gain control over.
Believed to be a greater form of spirit they appear to have a greater intelligence that that of their lesser kin. They operate in a role as an infiltrating unit within the masses of the Draugr, noted as having no real physical form with which blades are able to contact. Seen to be able to pass through solid objects and instil terrible visions of horror upon unsuspecting targets. The presence of a Wraith within a stronghold has been taken to be a sign of impending attack.
Dread Shadow/ Herald of Darkness
The greatest yet encountered form of Draugr these creatures are the most feared of their kind. Appearing as towering forms wreathed in shifting shadows they wield dark powers by which they ensnare and subdue targets. At least two types have been identified but are believed to be a variation on the same single creature. Dread Shadows take the form of a greater Wraith, retaining the ability to move through objects while being able to wither living beings at the slightest touch. Heralds of Darkness are viewed as monstrous abominations, creatures of nightmare made real that lead the forces of the Draugr, often accompanied by lesser undead. These beings have been seen to carve apart flesh and armour with ease bringing ruin to all that cross their path. Capable of high cognitive function including speech it is said to hear their voice invites madness as waking nightmares of death and unending darkness invade the mind. Thankfully encounters with these beings seem rare and only the largest conflicts saw their appearance. Though this has done little to still the fear of their existence.
Some Draugr creatures have been known to infest a living creature’s body. Perhaps the most horrific and feared aspect of the Draugr is their ability of harvest fresh forces from those slain in battle against them. Though not all are dead before they are taken.
The process by which a transformation can take place seems to vary but each is a disturbing spectacle that causes great suffering to the afflicted. The most common form, normally seen following a battle with their forces comes from those who become infected with what has been dubbed “Black Blood”. This is when a risen form of Draugr transfers an amount of its blood to a target, this is often caused by accident in the heat of combat as the spray of blood falls upon those in melee with the undead. Otherwise is can be transferred as the result of a bite.
The infected subject will slowly, perhaps unnoticed, become increasingly weakened as the blood moves through their body until passing out. Waking a short time later in the control of the Draugr, at this point they have transformed physically, taking on a deathly appearance. Eyes are blackened and the victim bleeds Black Blood from the eyes and mouth.
The second observed method of conversion is when a Spectral form of Draugr captures a target, restraining them before projecting shadow like energy that swarms across the target beings skin before entering the body. This method appears to be a faster or more direct form of conversion and has given rise to the term “Shadow Possession”.
In both circumstances the victim of the process is drawn into the service of the Draugr and will turn upon any they might once have called friend. A few examples of this process has shown that the victim may still be conscious during and for a short while after the transformation. Reports tell of victims crying out as they set upon fellows, shouting to be killed or asking forgiveness. This stage lasts for a short period before the victim succumbs to a more feral state as associated with the lesser forms of Risen.