Spirits and Ghosts
Spirits and Ghosts
"The Binding of the Lost," by Grand Magister Caedwynn of Estelore
When a creature dies, most of its essence — what our priests would call its soul, or the primitive denizens of the eastern islands call ki — leaves the world as we know it. Some say the gods embrace the dead in eternity, while others contend that death is simply the end. The simple fact is: we don't know, because the dead don't come back. Not ever.
What we do know is that when it passes, a creature temporarily leaves behind a shallow, fleeting echo of itself in our world: what we would call a spirit. The spirits of animals and most folk are impotent, without conscious thought or feeling, mere energy flowing through the aether before fully dissipating into the afterlife. At least, this is the natural progression of things; there are many tales both true (as investigated at length by your humble author) and mythical that describe the spirits of the dead becoming restless and refusing to move on from the mortal plane. These revenant spirits can be dangerous things, lashing out in anger or fear as they eternally relive the last moments experienced, and the emotions felt, by their true selves before death took them. Such spirits are so wrathful that they are capable of doing real physical harm to living things, manifesting themselves with just enough spiritual energy as to make claws and blades momentarily real when they strike.
Do not be surprised, young mage, should you be called on to help your lessers to banish haunting spirits, whether real or imagined, from the land of our glorious and everlasting empire. It is your privilege and duty to turn your gifts to the defense of Belhar from threats supernatural. But for now, let us return our attention to the topic of this chapter: those fleeting spirits that are indeed content to slowly discorporate and become aetheric.
Through ritual and spell, we magisters can summon these transient spirits, empower them to take semi-real form so that they can act or even communicate on our behalf. Many young mages learn to conjure the spirit of a wolf or some such creature to defend them against thieves and other miscreants.
But such minor spirits are of little consequence to experienced magisters. What this volume aims to deal with are so-called "greater spirits," sometimes called Great Souls or Old Souls if you are of a mind to listen to elves on the matter. Creatures of great age and power, such as dragons, leave behind considerably more powerful — and, thus, more useful — spirits after death: spirits capable of unleashing tremendous power into the material world, given the magical spark to summon them. Such summonings are daunting tasks even for the greatest of our calling (such as your humble author), but through expert ritual and the assistance of arcane artifacts, summoning greater spirits is an art not beyond the reach of an experienced and well-educated magister.
Now, the question most young pupils ask when confronted with this truth is "What can I do with one of these greater spirits?" The answer depends entirely on your mastery of your craft, young mage. Great spirits can be commanded to fight or otherwise act on your behalf, as their lesser cousins can, but we Estelorean magisters have in the last few decades uncovered a new science, one that greatly magnifies the potential of powerful spirits. We call it, simply, spirit binding.
Spirit binding allows the mage to permanently seal a spirit of great power within an object of imperial quality, infusing the item with the spirit's very essence. The spirit of a flame-wreathed drake might give a blade a perpetual coating of flame, or proof a mage's robe or warrior's panoply against flame. The spirits of the greatest and most powerful of creatures can sometimes even retain a hint of their former selves: intelligence, even memories, given voice in their master's head.
It makes one think about just how permanent death really is, doesn't it?
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