Alabaster Order: Whisperers

 

No one knows the exact reason why some souls gifted with a connection to aether are more highly revered by the spirits than others. Nevertheless, those increasingly rare individuals known to the Alabaster Order as “whisperers” have cemented themselves in a pivotal role within their ranks. The Order has a long history of believing in the sanctity of human willpower over divine strength, but after their fall at the hands of the previous Ascended’s arrogance the role of the whisperers became that of diplomats instead of subjugators.

Spirits do not communicate in human languages until they reach full sentience and inherit their followers’ native tongue. Even then, what they speak is only a simulation to facilitate a clearer understanding between both parties. A spirit at any level communicates through direct impulses to one’s soul. The human mind interprets these impulses and can respond through speech or prayer.

Unfortunately, the human mind is a terrible, muddled thing that often sends incomprehensible messages back through their soul. The simplest phrase of welcome can come across as the abrasive garbled screams of a lunatic, causing spirits great confusion and annoyance. The words of a whisperer, however, come across in soothing, pleasant tones that even the most raucous spirit would be inclined to converse with in amicable exchange. Some whisperers choose to obscure their natural senses with blindfolds and incense to further increase their success at interpreting speech filtered through the mind’s eye.

Mere words alone are not enough to make an effective whisperer. As spirits gather strength and gain increasing levels of sentience their personalities come into play. A spirit of war is unlikely to be open to peace talks with one whom bears gifts of flowers instead of bladed steel or tries to fool it with a silver tongue. But take caution when being too direct or you may find yourself challenged to a duel to the death against an immortal being.

While many lower tier spirits have little to offer in the way of stimulating conversation—their intellect matches that of a house pet or human infant—the familial bond that forms is not easily forgotten when navigating the later perils of diplomacy and protocol. An offering of aether from a whisperer’s personal reservoir may entice such novice spirits to follow them as a child would their parent, but there are risks associated with any whisperer that becomes overzealous in their otherworldly socializing. Not all spirits get along with each other and knowing which are more apt to coexist could save you from being caught in the crossfire or losing a trusted companion.

Fortunate is the whisperer who forms a deep bond with a spirit before their transcendence to godhood. Mortals often pray to deities for boons and may be met with begrudging results or none at all if they fail to impress. Deities are more likely to extend pacts to the friendly whisperer that include heavenly blessings such as knowledge, wealth, and power. They may even go so far as to resurrect a long deceased companion to transform them into their avatar or bring them to sit amongst the gods in the afterlife should they have association with a proper underworld or their own life-giving powers. 

Whisperers of the Order were expressly forbidden from communing with deity-level spirits for centuries after the schism that lead to their falling out. Only recently under the new Ascended's reign has that restriction been eased to allow for greater communication between allies.


 

Goetic Order of Man Terminology

 

"Preserve and persevere with dignity and honor, for there is no trial set to Earth that man cannot endure."

The Ascended

Lord, savior, patron saint and deity. A once mortal being that has transcended to godhood and is said to have the power to lead the Order through the apocalypse. According to the scriptures, the very first Ascended was a prominent scholar of the Order in ancient times who was slain by the gods for attempting to usurp them. Stories vary, but it is generally accepted as fact that the Ascended had vanquished at least five of these gods on His own and crystallized their essence into the Empyrean Jewels.

A new dawn has come with the arrival of the next Ascended which led to restructuring into the Alabaster Order.

 

Champion

The original Ascended was in the process of deifying his disciples when divine war was declared against Him. It is said that the next Ascended will continue His work by choosing the strongest of the Order whom also personifies their traditions and values to the highest degree.

 

Chosen

One knight per generation is selected by the council to be offered to the Ascended as the worthiest candidate to become their disciple. By age thirty a new Chosen must be nominated as it is then that knights must produce an heir. Although there is nothing in the scriptures that states the Chosen must be of pureblood or in direct relation to a councilmember, there has never been one that didn’t fulfill at least one of these conditions.

 

Council

A group of elders that governs all aspects of the Order’s daily life and official functions as judge and jury. Members serve for life and are replaced by their heir upon death without say from the other leaders to remove the complications of politics. The exact number of councilmembers may vary from generation to generation, but never falls below three and one always presides as adjudicator. Should members and their heirs fall, such as in times of war, those remaining may take a vote on promoting another elder to leadership. In even rarer circumstances one may challenge a leader for their seat on the council, but it is often considered garish and does not draw the respect necessary to rule peacefully.

 

Elders

The title for any member in their twilight years. Those in the Order have a significantly shorter life expectancy than the global human average due to the dangers of their lifestyle and the toll that repeated aether usage takes on the body. The most generous estimates give them to sixty years of age, while the average falls somewhere in the mid-fifties. One generally becomes an elder around fifty years old, although some under that age may be classified as such if they happen to be on the council.

 

Theurgic Knights

Casting off direct attribution to the gods with such terms as “holy”, while still paying homage to their divine benefactors’ initial involvement led to the main stock of the Order taking up the title of theurgists. A member of the Order reaches adulthood and becomes a knight upon completing their rite of passage by the age of eighteen. There is little to no difference in skill and power among the knights with regards to age. Upon being knighted, they must already be at their peak in every way and maintain this until death. Individual strength moderated by humility is the basis of efficient teamwork in the face of disaster. No knight wants to be known as the weak link or the loudest mouth and so their thirst for perfection is engrained from birth.

 

Children/Squires

Youth who have not yet completed their rite of passage. The term “squire” has been obsolete for the past two centuries, but was once meant to describe those who had begun formal combat training around age eight. Since then the Order has used the word “child” psychologically to remind those nearing adulthood that if they fail they are no better than a helpless infant.

 

Purebloods/Noble blood

Those directly descended from the original Order during the time of the first Ascended. The terminology is purely ceremonial in nature today and if there ever was a practical benefit, it has been diluted to nonexistence from centuries of mixed breeding. Some of the more invested traditionalists debate otherwise.

 

Book Keepers/Scribes

Scholars who focus on studying and maintaining scriptures in the archives. They are also responsible for presenting lesson plans to the children. The job of a book keeper is not in replacement for other chores and duties, but a position of dignity in addition to the rest. There is always at least one on the council and they are usually the senior most book keeper.

 

Alchemists

An uncommon, yet important position in the Order that centers on chemical mixtures enhanced by magic called decoctions. These liquids have a wide variety of supernatural effects from aiding in the healing process, increasing physical strength and concentration, recovering from fatigue and more. Alchemists can also create lethal poisons to affect a range of beings that would otherwise be impervious to conventional attacks. Oils infused with aether are massaged into the skin to numb pain and bolster fortitude against physical or elemental damage, but can also be applied to weapons and armor to substitute active enchantments when aether is scarce. The final product of alchemy—incense—has begun to fall out of use in the past century. Airborne chemicals meant to augment the senses are still used by whisperers when communing with the spirits, but their tricky application in combat to induce a battle trance left much to be desired without the assistance of a wind spirit to keep the cloud on allies and not enemies. In the days of yore, alchemists would carry censers and clay bombs filled with incense to release on the battlefield and swing the tide of battle in their favor.

 

Cabals

A team of theurgic knights is known as a cabal, although children in the Order will unofficially call their group of friends one too. Teamwork is paramount to the success of the Order and the synergy between cabal members is the foundation. Cabals follow a theme to maintain synergy; that is, they specialize in magic and fighting styles that align well without sacrificing versatility. A common example of a well-rounded cabal synergy would be that which focuses on two or three corresponding elements (fire/wind/lightning) and mixes heavy and light-armored knights to balance defense and mobility in battle.

 

Heirs

Every member of the Order is required to begin the process of producing a single heir by their thirtieth birthday in an effort to keep their ranks filled and continue their legacy. Attraction plays little part in selecting a mate. Good health and magical aptitude are all that matter. After that, the courting process is abrupt and ends just as quickly. Romantic notions of falling in love are squashed early on in life to avoid the distractions of false hope. All the love one may have to give is channeled into their heir. They are everything; the next step in the road to tomorrow.

Children are raised in a communal family setting, but it is their guardian’s responsibility and honor to do the bulk of the work in perfecting the one that will carry on their lineage. Should the situation arise that a knight is unable to produce an heir it is considered acceptable with approval by the council to take in a child related to them that possesses a magically gifted soul. Unscrupulous as it may be, some go the extent of looking beyond their own bloodline for one to pass as an heir.

Despite honed physiques, high intelligence, an unmatchable work ethic, and ceaseless bravery, it is no secret that the Order’s biggest fear lies not on the battleground, but in finding a suitable mate. Knights may be worldly from their endeavors, but feel unprepared when forced to connect with those outside the abbey walls. It is a problem to which no solution is ever posed from hesitation in admitting a weakness in their culture. A bond that should result in great joy leaves nothing, save miserable anxiety. When a child is welcomed into the Order by birth (as opposed to being “recruited”) the parent from the outside is not to be heard from again, but some love-starved knights attempt to make more of their fleeting tryst upon tasting the pleasures of romance and intimacy for the first time.

 

Rite of Passage

An arduous trial meant to prove absolute proficiency in combat and survival skills. Children of the Order train their entire lives and are only given a single chance to begin their next chapter. The claim that there are no failures is only because careful manipulation of the records sees that it is forgotten from history. Failure results in death, complete erasure from existence, or beyond recoverable maiming and is more common than any will ever admit. Tragedy befalls the one who must put down their own heir to grant them a merciful release from the suffering.

The trial is administered by the council and is not standardized. Youth may choose to go alone or with a cabal, but the level of danger increases along with the number of those on trial. A journey to the Astral Plane to slay one’s own inner demons is a simple task, while a battle to fell a demon lord is considered nigh-impossible and sadistic. A child may choose to petition for a more difficult rite of passage if they feel the one given is too lenient for their skills. While this is almost never the case and nothing is achieved directly by taking on a harder trial, the honor and respect gained from completing it puts them in incredible standing for personal campaigns in the future, such as dueling for a position on the council.

 

                Nathaniel Van Dalen,                                 the Unyielding Light

 

"Glory to the Ascended."

Aether Magic: Aerothurgy

 

Aetheric wind magic lacks in versatility until higher levels, but interacts favorably with most other elements. Even a light breeze can carry poisonous gases or blinding smoke.

 

Novice

Breeze – sub-40 mph single direction winds

Carry Contagion – Direct the flow of airborne diseases and toxins. Also useful for spreading battle incense among allies.

Intermediate

Gale – >40 mph single direction winds

Advanced

Storm – <75 mph single direction winds

Suffocate – Deprive a living being(s) of oxygen to cause a slow death.

Expert

Hurricane Rank 1 – >110 mph omni-directional winds the size of a city block

Overfill – Expand a living creature's lungs until they burst to inflict instant death.

Master

Hurricane Rank 2 – >155 mph winds spanning several city blocks

Twister – <1 mile across, <250 mph rotating winds

Vayu's Shield – Surround oneself in churning winds to foil physical projectiles.

Demigod

Hurricane Rank 3 – >200 mph winds

Tornado – 2 miles across, <275 mph rotating winds

Rudra's Blade – Create slicing projectiles from the air itself.

Divine

Hypercane – Continent-wide winds of 350-600+ mph including multiple tornados.

 

Synergy

Purifying Breeze – Wind + Light separates contagions from the air to make it breathable again. (Intermediate)

Zephyr – Wind + Time(Accelerate) is a graceful and deadly application of speed. Time only increases movement, but does not affect the physics along with it. Wind enables the caster to make lofty jumps, superhuman leaps akin to flying, and vorpal backdrafts or sonic booms when running due to extreme air pressure changes. (Advanced)

Supercell – Wind + Water + Lightning can create apocalyptic conditions even at sub-demigod levels. Fire can synergize to raze the ground with flaming tornados. Earth can add sand that when hurled at high enough speeds is capable of slicing through any manmade structure with ease. (Master)

 

Intro to Elemental Aether Magic

 

Practitioners of aether magic attune themselves to the elements in order to cast their respective spells. The elemental system is based on two parts knowledge and one part belief. Attunement to an element requires intense study of the intricacies of how it works through both communion and rote memorization.

Belief plays a factor in classifying exactly what is considered an element. For instance; some Eastern cultures define “Wood” and “Metal” as elements, while Western beliefs classify them as a subset of “Earth” or not at all. On the other side, “Lightning” and “Ice” are often seen as Western elements, yet in the East they are subsets of “Wind” and “Water”.

 

 

Infernal Hierarchy

 

Demons are some of the oldest creatures in the universe. While there is no definitive way to accurately record their age due to time distortion between dimensions, the eldest are thought to be in existence for billions of years at the very least. But, age has little relation to power. A demon’s strength is tied to the amount of souls it consumes and there are always usurpers looking for an opportunity to prey on the weary. Higher ranking Infernals that are in a position to rule also draw strength directly from the negative emotions that saturate their lands.

 

Minor

These pawns, also called “imps”, are the weakest of the weak. They are one of the few native inhabitants of Hell, meaning that they were never another creature in a previous life, such as fallen angels or damned humans were. Minor demons spawn from Hell itself, much like spirits do from the aether. A minor demon can never progress through life stages, however, and are only used as slaves by their more powerful kin until they are eventually consumed as a snack.

Diminutive, deformed, and utterly useless, these Infernals pose no threat whatsoever to anybody. An average human adult without any combat experience could put one down without difficulty. They are still demons though, and like all demons they can possess other creatures.

Infernals cannot exist indefinitely on Earth without a vessel due to the atmosphere being toxic to them. The stronger the demon, the more durable the vessel is needed and the less time it can spend on Earth without one before being sent back to Hell. Savvy demon lords and above use their expendable army of imps to possess mortal humans since they are weak enough to last on Earth just so long to accomplish a given task.

A minor demon may be a minor nuisance on its own, but when possessing a human and removing fear and pain along with the soul, they can become a terrifying sight in battle to other mortals. Some human bodies even begin to mutate when possessed and reflect their true sinister nature. Lingering emotions like hate and anger are amplified by the demonic presence within their empty shell, leaving behind something truly abhorrent…

 

Lesser

Lesser demons go by countless names across the endless worlds and cultures they spawn from. A soul damned to Hell soon becomes a lesser demon if it is not immediately devoured or captured upon arrival. These demons are an instant threat to any human and most undead. Like all Infernals they can only ever be killed for good in their homeworld where they are exponentially more powerful.

Lesser demons resemble how they appeared in their past lives only with a few additions. All demons grow horns from their skull; the stronger the demon, the larger and more ornate they become. Their eyes—the windows to their damned souls—turn variations of red and over time their blood boils until it becomes magmatic.

As these demons age and consume souls they gradually metamorphose to depict their inner evil. Many turn into towering behemoths, but the madness that drives them is blinding. The more they lose themselves to their rage, their sentience wanes and they become little more than savage beasts for the more cunning Infernals to command.

On average, a well-fed lesser demon’s hide is bulletproof to all conventional firearms, highly resistant to being pierced by mundane materials like steel, and immune to terrestrial fire with added defense against many paths of magic. They range in height from nine to twenty feet and can lift anywhere from five to thirty tons. Their horns can casually slice through most earthly metals and like most demons are immune to pain and fear.

 

Greater

An Infernal becomes a greater demon after consuming thousands of souls. Most centuries old undead start as greater demons once they die, but since they have not consumed any souls yet they become easy targets for other hellspawn.

These demons differ very little from their lesser incarnation and some do not consider these a separate denomination. Either way, these demons stand out for their beginning in mastery over hellfire, full sentience, and the ability to learn Forbidden magic. In some cases they can return to a more humanoid appearance useful for deceiving others.

 

Lord

Any Infernal that has consumed in the millions of souls and owns a substantial amount land in Hell (around the size of a large city or metropolis) is known as a lord. Ancient undead and fallen angels automatically become these upon death, and more powerful demons can offer lordship to those who make a pact with them. As with greater demons, those that cheat the system become prime targets and must show dominance quickly or suffer a terrible fate for eternity.

Demon lords gain a sizable increase to all parameters—intelligence included. The dimension of Hell has been around long before Earth and stores limitless knowledge from the many other worlds it has contact with in its lands. The knowledge does not come in the form of books or scrolls, but is seeded within Hell’s collective consciousness that lords and above can tap into. Alien languages, enigmatic fields of science, and bizarre magic paths are only scratching the surface of what Hell has to offer a curious mind.

Demon lords are the first rank of Infernals to specialize in their sins. They seek to corrupt others to add to their armies and expand their influence both in Hell and Earth through constant scheming. They are tireless monsters that will stop at nothing to gain an inch. A single demon lord at its peak has the power to affect whole countries, and potentially continents, with infectious corruption or sheer destruction. Luckily, they can only last mere minutes on Earth.

 

Arch

Countless legends across innumerable worlds have been told of these Infernals. They stand in direct defiance of the gods and make all but the strongest tremble at their might. It takes billions of souls to rise to the rank of an archdemon. They command entire legions and rule vast empires in Hell that could snuff out all life on Earth with little effort if left unchecked.

Archdemons are leagues above their predecessors with nigh-omniscience and omnipotence. An archdemon could be taller than the highest mountain peak with near-incalculable strength enough to sunder continents with a footstep, or assume the form of an innocent young human whose mere presence on Earth drives whole hemispheres into a homicidal frenzy.

There is no true limit to the power they can muster, but their paranoia is typically their main hindrance. Not in the best company, archdemons are acutely aware that they are always being watched for a moment of weakness that their peers and subordinates could exploit. They have a transcendent level of patience after having been in existence longer than most worlds and act through others instead of risking their legacy.

Archdemons cannot spawn in any capacity on Earth under its current state. It is one of the last bastions against the forces of Hell and this enrages them. Demons—especially archdemons—do not take kindly to having limits, making Earth a prime target for their wrath.

 

King

There is not much to be said about the Infernal Kings because nothing more than conjecture has ever been recorded on them. They are uncontested in Hell—both omnipotent and omniscient—and it is widely agreed upon that they are the founders of their dimension and all who spawn from it.

Some say that the Infernal Kings are the pure embodiment of unmitigated evil. After their underlings corrupt worlds to become suitable for them, the kings finish off the remaining inhabitants and cast their judgment whether to destroy the planet or repopulate it with their kind.

Others think that these demons are actually different aspects of one entity that is the antithesis to the fabric of creation. Their machinations are just what is necessary to unravel the strings so something new can be created in its place. Maybe they do not represent evil when viewing their actions from a cosmic scale, but oblivion.

Regardless of the theoretical ideology behind them, the Infernal Kings are peerless and there is no way to ascertain anything close to a limit to their power. Once they breach the veil, there is next to nothing that anyone can do to stop the inevitable annihilation.

Like archdemons, they are thought to be unable to enter Earth’s realm at all, but there are accounts of them at least manifesting in some manner to certain individuals. Stories also tell of their temporary defeat at the hands of empowered gods, though it may have been less of a battle and more of a test of worthiness for more dubious means.

 

Intro to Spirits

 

Spirits are beings of pure aether—the universe’s spiritual energy that permeates all things. In a sense they are all different aspects of the same entity cut from the same spectral cloth, as we are carbon-based life recycled into one another. Spirits evolve as living things do and can be heavily influenced by their environment. However, unlike biological creatures, a spirit’s growth is most affected by the harmonizing radiant energy of souls. Such energy is released through strong emotions such as prayers or terror.

Due to aether’s omnipresence and transmutative properties, there is almost no limit to what concept a spirit can represent.

 

Wisps

The basic form of a spirit materializes as an orb of light known as a wisp, much like a mortal soul appears for those who can see them. These spirits are the larval or fetal stages of much greater beings, but can be quite powerful in their own right.

Strong enough wisps can manifest in the material world on their own at greatly diminished capacity. They tend to only appear in places of untouched nature where the veil between worlds is thinnest and are often confused for large fireflies. Wisps can cross over to Earth at full strength if summoned by someone.

One who summons spirits is known as a “whisperer” because of the hushed sound their voice makes through the veil and an implied level of respect. Wisps form a temporary invisible tether with the magic-user who summoned them to feed off of their personal aether reserves like an astral umbilical cord.

A wisp can only represent a single property of the universe. The most common are the elements—such as earth—or that which is closely related—such as plants. As wisps gain strength they can become more specialized (a wisp of the forest, a particular type of plant, or a poison derived from it) until reaching the next stage of growth.

 

Elementals/Guardian Spirits/Jinn/Yaksha

There are numerous denominations of second-level spirits. Many are confused with ghosts because of their similar incorporeal and transient behavior—the name “spirit” is even used interchangeably in some cultures. Spirits on this level can range from amorphous semi-sentient energy masses to completely sentient demigods.

Like living creatures, these spirits are capable of forming emotional bonds. Although void of conscious thought as wisps they will “remember” their bond with those who summoned them in the past and whether they were treated well or not. It may take thousands of years for some to reach this plateau in their existence and a setback can mean centuries of regression, but those lucky enough to bond with such a spirit gain a demonstrably powerful and immortal companion.

Wisps become more specialized in their field as they grow, but second-level spirits begin to expand their area of influence as they head toward the next phase. Some spirits fuse together to create a duality; two entities merging to act as one, but retaining all independent abilities that each would be unable to learn on their own. The simplest example of this would be a water and fire spirit fusing into one sentient being and keeping mastery of their opposing powers.

In the case of a duality, a tertiary aspect may be revealed from the synergy between the two spirits joining. A fire wisp indirectly affects heat and light, but a fire elemental can expand its influence to directly affect them. Control over heat does not only affect increases in temperature, but decreases also. When combined with a water element, this mastery over heat can give the resulting spirit a tertiary element of ice.

 

Deities/Spiritborn

The final stage of any spirit is transcendence to godhood. These beings are incredible forces of nature with absolute control over their dominion. Their influence is not limited to this world alone and their potential is endless as long as there is the aether and the belief necessary to fuel them. At their peak they can affect celestial bodies such as stars, planets, and entire galaxies, rewrite the laws of physics and reality at a whim, create other gods and demigods, and manipulate the forces of life and death.

There are three tiers of deities: lesser, traditional, and chief.

Lesser or “terrestrial” deities have a small or specific following and only subtly affect a localized region under certain conditions (ex/ a harvest god, or goddess of a lake). These deities typically deal directly with the land or concept they influence and shy away from interacting with humans.

Traditional deities affect large areas of land—typically whole kingdoms or empires—with massive followings and very visual results (ex/ a goddess of storms, or god of war). These deities delight in interacting with humans—for better or for worse—and will occasionally quarrel amongst themselves for the right to mortal attention.

Chief or “divine” deities are the upper echelon of godhood. They rule over other deities of a particular religion in a congregation known as a “pantheon”. As leaders they wield unfathomable powers that eclipse all else beneath them with even their lowest showings (ex/ a sky god, or sun goddess). These deities rarely involve themselves in mortal or terrestrial affairs and tend to work through other gods and demigods. However, their power is so great that even without trying they can alter the world we live in. Conjuring a drought or hurricane to them takes no more effort than turning oxygen to carbon-dioxide for us.

There is a speculated fourth tier thought to be the eternal aspects of the universe, such as dominion over all creation itself. Whether or not they can truly be considered part of the same progression line remains a mystery. Whoever they are is far beyond mortal comprehension and predates time, making their reliance on our worship null. Having such expansive reach would mean that even the chief deities represent a mere single cell to a greater entity.

 

Progression Example

“Zeus”

Electricity(Wisp) > specialized to > Lightning(Elemental) > refined to > Sky(Deity)

 

Intro to Blood Magic

 

To cast magic one must draw from a source of power—the most common being aether. The undead curse upon the soul bars any connection with the Earth’s ambient spiritual energy, however, so an appropriate substitute in blood sacrifice is used. Blood quality has a direct correlation to the resulting strength of a spell, making more potent blood—such as an Ancient’s—highly valued.

The Strigoi are measured in the use of their resources. Animal blood is used by neophytes during practice so as not to waste precious edible reserves of the human kind. Strigoi are known for making synthetic blood to stave off hunger, but it is only a cheap imitation that lacks the necessary sacrifice to cast magic.

Blood magic is considered “dirty” by other practitioners of the white and black arts because it is cheating the system with no real inherent talent needed to produce a result. Any sentient creature could theoretically cast blood magic with proper instruction, unlike those that rely on aether who must be born with a gifted soul. To safeguard against their arcane secrets falling into mortal hands, the Strigoi wrote their spells to require the blood to come from within the caster’s own body. The undead can engorge and expend blood on a whim—with total loss only leading to unconsciousness—but humans could never cast anything more than lighting a candle without putting themselves in fatal danger.

A point system was created by the Strigoi to organize the strength and requirements of their spells and rituals with each increment being exponentially more powerful than the last. The lowest tier spells are three points and are represented by a triangle within a circle. Any words or phrases that need to be invoked are scribed around it, more as a reminder than a function of the spell. The effects of a three-point cast are so trivial by modern day standards that many acolytes choose to skip the majority of them when mentoring neophytes.

“Real” magic begins at five points represented by a star called a pentagram, or pentacle if encircled. Out of all the heinous, unethical experiments conducted by the Strigoi, they insist that they have no ties to Hell and to consider the pentagram demonic is sheer ignorance perpetuated by dim humans during the Dark Ages’ witch hunts. Despite the stigma surrounding it, the pentagram and pentacle remain the most common symbol in the daily life of the Strigoi.

Seven-point spells are the highest tier that any undead can cast on their own and only one at a time even when fully engorged. Nine through thirteen-point spells require not only more potent blood than a human’s, but also other casters to join in and help reduce the difficulty. A Strigoi Ancient is the exception to this as they can fire off thirteen-point spells on their own in rapid succession without tiring. Magic on this level is catastrophic and can effortlessly change the landscape by ripping apart reality at its seams or altering the flow of time and space on a grand scale. Fortunately, the Strigoi Ancients are intelligent enough not to draw attention to themselves with such wanton destruction seeing as it only makes them more desirable to the Infernals watching hungrily from their sulfur pits.

 

Undead Infrastructure

 

The original undead were created by demons as both soldiers and an affront to the gods and goddesses during the last reckoning. Only a handful of undead savvy enough to survive the war and navigate the shattered world afterward went on to spread the curse.

Demons rarely make mistakes. Those chosen by them to receive their “gift” were depraved individuals that they knew would use their immortality to corrupt and turn others. Unfortunately for them, they were able to endure an apocalypse only to be slain at the hands of their progeny and sent to Hell to be reunited with their former masters. This second generation was wise enough not to let the same fate befall them and became the progenitors of the covens today.

 

Archios

The self-proclaimed aristocracy of the undead. Their name comes from a corruption of the Greek/Latin word for “executive” and “ruler”. Once a small and exclusive group lead by a court of nobles is now a veritable multinational legion of socialites governed solely by their matriarch Aurelia de Saint-Pierre. Her word is law and will is absolute. Those foolish enough to even think of defying her seem to disappear without a trace, including her former court members. There is only Aurelia and those beneath her.

 

Strigoi

The Strigoi have held the reputation as the most mysterious coven from the start. Unlike the other covens, the Strigoi Ancients do not interact directly with their kin. It isn’t even known for sure how many Ancients they have or ever did have.

The Tribunal of Elders communes telepathically with whatever Ancient collective there may be to know in which direction to lead the coven. Once a decade they rise from their crypts around Munich, Germany to convene and dole out directives to the archmages.

Every Strigoi lair—known as an arcanum—is run by an archmage. These undead earn their position by being voted for within an arcanum. Disputes are settled by the Tribunal of Elders, but rare is it for even the most bold Strigoi to show such pettiness to their superiors when the progression of the coven as a whole should be the main priority. The title of archmage is at times only ceremonial when leading an arcanum of less than ten members that would not even be granted audience with the Tribunal. However, archmages that head arcanums with membership in the dozens are of great power and prestige that hold more active sway over the progress of the coven than does the Tribunal.

Acolytes are the standard and most numerous rank. They awaken each night to continue their research and magical experiments meant to better the coven and prevent their annihilation in the next apocalypse. After fifty years of tutelage as a neophyte they begin to specialize in a more refined area of blood magic.

Neophytes are the newly initiated of the coven and the apprentices of acolytes. The Strigoi turn only those with magical potential, but seeing as undead souls cannot harmonize with the aether as human mages can, they convert to the teachings of blood magic. Strigoi remain in their lairs for centuries at a time without ever interacting with the outside world. Upon specializing in a particular field of blood magic—elemental, biological, or mechanical—neophytes may be required to make a rare journey to another arcanum that better suits their studies.

 

Carpathians

Although savage in appearance and mannerisms to those on the outside, the Carpathians have a rigid social structure akin to ants and bees that is held together through respect and not domination. They will turn almost anyone to keep their ranks high, but prefer those that are readily compliant and strong enough not to get put down on their first night. The Carpathians’ dogma against all who would shun them is one of the only lessons they teach and use it to keep the coven motivated.

Marauders seek out blood to share with the rest of their brethren and stray furthest from the nest to do it. Typically this caste make up the rank-and-file of the coven. Their task is simple: engorge on blood until bloated like a tick ready to burst and then return home to let the others feed from the excess. The bite of the Carpathians is excruciating even for their own kind, but enduring it is considered endurance training and a privilege.

Vindicators are the soldiers that are first to respond to threats or eliminate them before they begin at the command of the Ancients. They are fearless battle-hardened warriors that fight with guerilla warfare and shock-and-awe tactics. Despite being the very definition of fodder, those that do prove themselves worthy may receive boons from the Ancients in the form of gruesome body modifications useful for combat.

The Ancients are the most public of any coven perhaps next to the Archios. Their visage alone is enough to stop a mortal’s heart and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Sightings of the Carpathian Ancients can be attributed to countless legends across Eastern Europe and the Middle East, but sadly for them it is also the main cause of their dwindling numbers. They rarely communicate with one another and are highly territorial of their domains to the point of cannibalizing challengers to the throne.

 

Outsiders

“Outsiders” is a misnomer as they do not have an official name nor central organization to designate one. Every major city around the world has unwanted undead cast out as mistakes that band together to try and survive. Most operate as a communal family where an older member will play the role of mother or father to teach the others how to make it through one more night.

Sadly, most do not survive longer than what their mortal lives would have been. They make easy prey for the Carpathians, earn the Archios’ ire as a threat to their relationship with humanity, or take dangerous jobs as couriers and mercenaries for the reclusive Strigoi only to wind up as test subjects.

 

Afterlife

 

True death occurs when the soul is severed from the body. Once a person dies—whether mortal or immortal—their soul drifts away to a dimensional hub known as the Underworld. Those who devoted their lives to a religion will journey farther to the underworld aligned to them and await judgment.

 Deities and high-ranking demons may choose to give a soul a second chance through reincarnation, or resurrection in exceedingly rare cases. If a soul is reincarnated it will retain at least a portion of its memories, personality, and appearance. Resurrection allows full retention of all traits. Those that do not experience rebirth are recycled into the universe to eventually be turned into a brand new soul.

Time flows differently, or not at all in other dimensions so there is no way to measure the process. Some may be resurrected immediately if a particular trait of theirs captures a deity or demon's attention. Many wait in purgatory for the equivalent of centuries on Earth only to be erased and returned to the cosmic cycle.

There are those, however, that refuse to accept their death and let go of their previous lives. People with strong emotional ties or important business left unfinished may be able to focus the energy in their souls to manifest in the material world. Powerful curses are also able to deny souls rest by delaying their final passing until a certain condition is met.

 

Ghosts

The word “ghost” can be used to describe all classifications of disembodied souls, or the simplest manifestation of them. As the latter, it is an echo reaching out across the veil between the Underworld and the material world. Ghosts cannot stray far from their place of death and to summon them by necromancy is a jarring and painful experience akin to being ripped from the womb. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to breach the dimensional curtain and the dead are often too weak and weary to do more than whisper a single phrase incoherently before fading away forever.

These types of ghosts visit mortals quite frequently, but are dismissed as mind tricks and wishful thinking when the soul is too weak to make a repeat performance.

 

Apparition

Apparitions are a minor improvement over ghosts that can use what little energy they have left to form a hazy image of how they appeared in life. They are usually restricted to either uttering a simple, semi-conscious phrase or manifesting an image, but rarely ever both at once.

 

Poltergeist

These souls are typically and incorrectly classified in folklore as purely malevolent, when they are actually just ghosts willful enough to make their presence known in a more forceful manner. Poltergeists are another small step up the ladder of the afterlife and the first to be able to affect the material world. They will cause a drop in ambient temperature when crossing over from the wastelands of the Underworld, akin to opening a window in the winter. Beyond limited speech and images of themselves, poltergeists can interact with physical objects to warn, protect, or lash out at people they feel strongly towards.

 

Phantom/Specter

Phantoms are angry souls that come from those who have been wronged. Their rage is so great that they can return to the material world in almost perfect form. Their verbal and visual manifestations appear lifelike and will fool all but the keenest eye. They will travel some distance from their place of death if there is another location or person their rage is tied to. While they retain no supernatural powers—should they have had them in life—they are still a formidable encounter due to their intangibility and control over their surroundings.

*The word “phantom” is considered a generic and often erroneous title by the undead to describe a ghost. This stems from the Old World phrase “ville fantôme” (ghost town) used for towns sucked dry and left empty by the undead before the time of their exile.

Specters are the karmic opposite to phantoms. Specters are sometimes referred to as “guardian angels” although they have no actual ties to the Celestial race. They can appear in as much detail as phantoms, but because of their humble and giving nature tend to prefer staying invisible and make their presence seem like a stroke of good fortune. Specters make up the second most common classification of ghost after the initial level. This is said to be because these souls have a need to watch over the ones they care for so great that everything else—including their own chance at rebirth—comes second to them.

 

Wraith

These sinister beings are near demigods of death and nigh-omnipotent in the Underworld. The power difference between phantoms and wraiths can be compared to a candle versus the sun. Wraiths are exponentially more rare than Ancients are to the undead. The requirements to become one are numerous and almost entirely unknown, save for a few wicked souls that took that knowledge to the grave.

Upon death not only does the body begin to decay, but so does the soul. Supernatural abilities are only inherent to the body in most cases and are lost in the afterlife, but magic remains partially ingrained in the soul for those wise enough to prepare. To become a wraith one must have purpose and power. It takes centuries—if not millennia—to amass adequate strength to make a pact with Death once in the Underworld, and even then success is uncertain.

Once one becomes a wraith and crosses over into the material world they must work quickly and efficiently to form a tether. The pull of the Underworld is stronger than any gravity and a new wraith can be drawn back in and robbed of their power if they do not prove to be cunning. For this purpose wraiths will often have their minions from a previous life prepare spells that will aid in keeping them bound to Earth, or the wraith will masquerade as a god or other divine being to trick mortals into doing their bidding.

After a wraith is anchored to the material world and becomes acclimated they will begin reaping souls to pay their part of the bargain with Death. The more souls offered, the more power granted in return. Being that most successful in becoming a wraith are master necromancers highly in tune with death, they can begin creating their own tethers where they so choose as not to be bound to a single location. However, this soon becomes obsolete—a powerful enough wraith can travel anywhere that Death can.

Wraiths cannot be stopped, cannot be killed nor banished for long, and to contain one is a feat of the gods. Most gods choose to ignore them as the trouble they can bring to a god’s flock if angered is a risk not worth taking. The pact with Death grants them expansive control over the dark elements of the Underworld and even manifestations of Death itself to assist in the reaping of souls.

 

Immortality

 

Immortality is a nebulous umbrella term used to describe any being that can potentially live forever. There are several different degrees of immortality all with their own caveats.

 

Undead

The curse inflicted upon the mortal shell keeps it frozen in time, but requires an appropriate blood sacrifice to rewind the clock when injured. Undead can exist indefinitely unless their heart, or a significant amount of their body is destroyed and drained of the blood necessary to repair. Since these beings are in a constant state of death it is not considered true healing when tissue is regenerated because that would mean new cells are being given life. Instead, it is the same cells that are brought back by the curse time and time again.

 When an undead dies or part of the body is removed from its connection to the heart, the curse is considered to be void. Depending on the age and damage sustained throughout their existence under the curse, the undead body may appear as a decaying corpse if young. Older individuals are reduced to ash from years of physical harm and cells that should have expired naturally long ago.

 

Perpetual homeostasis

A living body in transcendent harmony with itself can exist infinitely. The body continues all life processes, but can still die upon sustaining lethal damage. Accelerated healing is not a function of this immortality and should be considered an entirely separate trait. There are four levels of this condition.

i.               The body continues to age normally. Eating, sleeping, and breathing are still required.

ii.              The body stops aging. Eating, sleeping, and breathing are still required to a lesser degree.

iii.            The body stops aging and eating, sleeping, breathing are no longer required. Discomfort and catatonia may occur if the body is deprived for long periods.

iv.            The body stops aging and eating, sleeping, breathing are no longer required. There are no negative effects from deprivation if energy is gained through another source.

 

Spirit

All constructs of aether—from wisps to elementals to gods—are considered to be undying regardless of strength because they are a manifestation of pure, self-sustaining energy. Aether can be reformatted, dispersed, and crystallized, but never destroyed. Spirits will always return in some capacity if the aether is influenced in the correct way.

 

Eternal

These beings supersede existence itself. The concepts of life and death mean nothing to them as they have been around before time began and still will be after it ends. They are aspects of the universe beyond human and most immortal’s comprehension.

 

Types of Fire

 

Terrestrial

Mundane fire that burns away physical matter and is present in all realms, but the only kind found naturally on Earth. Heat levels are based on flame color ranging from red(coolest) to white(hottest). As a natural element it reacts negatively with its counter element—water—and is the only type of fire to do so.

 

Hellfire

Infernal balefire* that burns not only physical matter, but souls and spirits. Regardless of its strength, hellfire is always green, although white and black can be present at times as it interacts with objects. The flames smell of pungent sulfur no matter what they are burning.

Hellfire affects physical matter the same way as terrestrial fire and it also harms spirits in a similar manner. Depending on its strength, hellfire at its weakest will corrupt souls which saps them of their strength and causes a variety of ill effects to the host such as extreme fatigue, weakness, confusion, and nightmares. Supernatural beings can experience a significant loss in their powers. Weak willed individuals will go through a rapid moral decline as the brand of Hell drives them toward madness and evil.

The most powerful hellfire is one of the few forces in any known universe capable of outright destroying souls, denying them from the cosmic cycle and effectively erasing a person from existence so that they may never be reborn.

As with most otherworldly fire, water does nothing to extinguish it, nor does lack of oxygen. Hellfire does not always have to be hot either. While mundane fire is based off increased energy exciting particles to trigger combustion, hellfire is mystic in nature and can cause the opposite effect if desired to induce frostbite and freezing.

*Balefire is a term to describe any mystic flame used for insidious purposes.

 

Underworld

These dark flames are unique in that they are not a separate element of their own. All “dark” elements originating from the Underworld are a manifestation of death energy and an aspect of Death itself. Unlike other fires that are simple and common to their native realms, conjuring dark elements takes enormous skill and a pact with the essence of Death often at the cost of the caster’s mortal shell.

Underworld flames at their weakest are a bluish purple and pitch black at their strongest. They affect physical matter and even other forms of energy not by burning, but enfeebling, decaying, decomposing, and withering as all dark elements do. These flames can also be used to manipulate inanimate objects as a liaison for Death. A marked machine could be made to malfunction and wait to kill the next user or set off a chain of events that would indirectly lead to their downfall.

Souls struck by Underworld fires feel the same debilitating weakness as when hit by hellfire. Spirits take direct damage, but that done to souls is actually an attack on the tether binding the soul to the body. Death does not partake in the destruction of souls, as its main function is to keep balance between the living and dead and without souls there would be neither. As the soul is severed from the body it may feel that the flames are burning cold to the victim, however to others nearby they remain the same.

 

Celestial

Also known as holy fire or heavenly fire, it is the only flame that radiates supernatural light and burns pure white no matter the strength behind it. Not much else is known except that it has no effect on the soul unless corrupted and interacts with hellfire as water does terrestrial fire.

 

Fae

Fae or wyrd fire is an artificial flame hailing from the lands of Arcadia—a “Counter-Earth” that exists in a parallel dimension. This fire sparkles and burns with a pale prismatic flame that radiates no heat. The inhabitants of Arcadia are known to be more closely in tune with nature than their counterparts on Earth, so they devised an alternative to mundane fire that could still be used in combat without the threat of spreading across the wilderness.

Fae fire is a manifestation of aether and as such has the most impact against spirits, but also the mind of sentient creatures. It was first conjured by ancient Arcadian mages after generations of research into a flame that would not harm physical matter nor the soul, and has since become a staple in their battles. The flames erode the conscious mind, inducing a malaise of bewilderment and making it more susceptible to illusions, but leaves the body unscathed.

Stronger flames send acute pain throughout the nervous system making the victim panic and feel as if all nerve endings were doused with molten steel. They are often flooded with “scent memories” as the flames burn away their inner thoughts. At its worst, Fae fire can shatter the conscious and subconscious causing a total lobotomy to living things and preventing spirits from manifesting, at least for a time.

Being that Fae fire is aetheric in origin it can interact strangely with other arcane items, such as by being imprinted onto weapons.

 

Wyrm

Greater draconic beasts native to Arcadia breathe a hybrid of terrestrial and mystic fire that is immune to water. This fire is always within the yellow-red spectrum, however it burns at white-hot temperatures to start. Being a form of mundane fire and igniting by combustion, wyrm fire is based on the principles of heat. Although this fire can burn underwater, it is negatively affected by cold temperatures that rapidly slow the movement of energy between molecules from its breath and can be extinguished or even frozen as a solid.