Head Librarian Tonald Sigermane:
My name is Samantha Greyhalo, a freelance Scholar and Undead Hunter. I have had the opportunity to review your library's tomes and felt dutifully compelled to provide additions in my free time. If you have any critiques for myself or my co-author, feel free to voice them.
Additionally, I plan to continue my educational endeavors, and am most curious if there is a subject upon which your library needs expansion. Particularly anything relevant to undead sites in the area, or their history. I can't promise results, but I can promise the full efforts of my investigation.
The Origin of Zombies.
By Samantha Greyhalo and Alesszshara.
Foreward: It is imperative that we forward our understanding of those that would do us harm, without the infringement of cultural taboos. There is a thin, mean line between life and death. A place of grotesque horror, devoid of any pity or kindness. The things there will prey on your flesh and your soul in equal measure.
- Chapter One: Physical Nature of Corporeal Undead.
Undeath, and the undead that fall within this category of animation, are the result of once-living things empowered by divine, arcane, supernatural, or spiritual forces. The methods employed in their creation, the purpose of the undead themselves, the materials and bodies possessed by undead energies, and the methods of procreation - if such terms are applicable to agents of anti-life, are as varied as the undead beings themselves.
The physical forms of undeath, while varied, carry some consistent traits. For one, the beings are no longer powered by the internal humors that are consistent with other living creatures. Internal organs are so much stuffing, their purpose subsumed by negative energy. Therefore undead require a deeper understanding to be properly disposed of.
Once-critical blows, such as damage to the heart, lungs, head, or spleen, no longer serve to incapacitate a being touched by undeath. Full destruction of the physical form is required, or sufficient damage to rob the animated corpse of locomotive function.
Although conventional decay would suggest an undead corpse to be frail, brittle, and otherwise possessed of lowered structural integrity it is found that the inverse is more common. The negative energies used in animation can often reinforce the physical form to a point of near-indestructibility by conventional means. The primary factor in one's ability to properly terminate undead is, unfortunately, exceptionally varied.
Standard rules of logic can be applied. Crushing implements are superior on bone, cartilage, or beings made of connective tissues. Slashing weapons are best employed on rotting flesh, organs, or beings made of combinations of oozing refuse or internal organs. Piercing weapons do not fill a wide role in the extermination of undeath and are better employed on other opponents.
Further, magical and atypical means can be employed. Fire, acid, frost, electricity, or other means can prove tremendously more effective at the destruction of undead beings. It is rare to encounter undead with resistances or weaknesses to multiple elements, but they are varied enough that a seasoned undead hunter should be prepared for any contingency.
- Chapter Two: The Machinations of Negative Energy.
The exact nature of negative energy is not the purpose of this tome, as such it will be only touched upon in it's relation to undeath, and the animation of undead beings.
The bulk of undead are animated by negative energy, the opposite of the positive energy that animates most life as we know it. This is the prime reason behind the opposite nature of the beings. Anything that hurts life will heal undeath, and vice versa. This is the underlying mechanic behind rituals and sigils relating to undeath, and the common reason that living beings will find undead repulsive and threatening unless properly prepared, or psychologically or physiologically damaged.
Continuing in this opposite nature, negative energy is able to animate anything that positive energy would not. A mass of sheep's stomachs would not be ambulatory or capable of survival under conventional means, but negative energy provides the animatory methodology that positive energy cannot. The inverse is equally true, as pure and living specimens that function properly cannot be animated by negative energy until they reach a critical point of non-functioning, conventionally considered to be death.
- Chapter Three: The Nature of Incorporeal Undead.
Incorporeal undead, those devoid of physical forms, exist as a pure conduit of negative energy attached to the sentience provided by a soul. Whereas corporeal undead are negative energy providing animation to a body that may or may not retain some connection to a soul and, therefore, intellect - incorporeal undead are decidedly soul-attached.
The nature through which negative energy manifests the representation of a soul, however, is exceptionally damaging to the soul. It leaves scant traces of memory and intellect, features long lost by the reversing nature of a soul's conversion from positive to negative flows of energy. This results in most incorporeal undead being psychologically unstable, incapable of creating new memories, unable to process their own passing, or altogether mad in differing degrees.
- Chapter Four: Anchored Souls.
Souls may be anchored by negative energy, a divine or arcane ritual, or spell, or divine intervention, or other less-easily classified form of curse. The destruction of an undead beings physical form, if applicable, may or may not eliminate the being in question. Most commonly known examples are the Lich, it's soul tied to a material object and it's body regenerated through arcane means, and the Vampire, it's soul tied to the soil of it's grave, or a coffin, which allows similar regeneration.
Therefore, in the pursuit of elimination of undead, the soul of the undead being must be considered. It may be difficult to gauge if the being has an intellect attached to a soul, or sheer animistic cunning provided by bodily functions ambulated by negative energy.
- Chapter Five: Extermination and Release.
Given that undead are the opposites of conventional beings in every way due to this nature, it is required that one deeply consider their existence before drafting a plan in full.
First, one must consider the nature of the undead. Are they corporeal, or incorporeal, and will the available arsenal suffice to destroy them?
Second, one must consider the means of regeneration the undead has, if any. Will destroying it's physical form suffice? Will one have to locate further conduits of regeneration? Is there an individual, disturbed grave, item, or other reason the undead has risen? Will this soul advance to the afterlife following the destruction or removal of the offending reason?
Third, one must consider the means of procreation employed by the undead. Will the destruction of this single entity suffice if it has had time to animate further progeny? What is the best method of tracking and destroying this progeny before the undeath becomes an epidemic?
At this point the singular undead threat may be eliminated, or may continue if the means of it's creation was complex enough. In either scenario the task is not complete. Undead will continue to exist as a greater part of Toril as long as the knowledge of their animation remains prevalent, and as such, new and increasingly complex forms are likely to be encountered. Vigilance against these threats is the only true safety one will find.
As this text, in its current form, does not really add anything to the library's knowledge not already established by Raznor's Guide to the Undead, we see very little need for this current text in this form. However, you propose a wonderful project for future study and scholarship; one that we shall be interested in sponsoring.
We will consider sponsoring research provided there is a guarantee that you will complete the work. What fees and costs do you anticipate?
My primary focus would be on historically undead-oriented locations, and their origins. The Haunted Halls, Clar Banda's Tomb, et al. Perhaps the history of necromantic villains, if indeed lore on them can be located and collated.
Costs can vary significantly, though anything focused on lessening the negative energy of the places would be a tremendous boon in my work, both academic and otherwise. Beyond that I seek only the supplies to carry my work out, traditional alchemical healing and the like.
Given the dangerous nature of the work, I am uncertain what guarantees I could provide beyond my word. Rest assured, however, that I have a tremendous personal investment in seeing it completed.
If you can provide a history and biography of the notorious villain Manzahar, we shall see you well and dutifully compensated.
Pancake last edited by Pancake
The Rise of House Manzahar
By Samantha Greyhalo
Special Thanks to Alesszhara, Damion Latok, Eso, Angelo, Manzian Grail and Hicksman.
Second Edition: 29th of Tarsakh, 1395
Thraesus Manzahar, as many knew him, was an unstable intellect possessing a near-dead body, so imbued with necromantic energies that it blurred the line between living and dead to all but the most scholarly of arcanists. His knowledge of the Arcane had moved his perspective beyond mortality thus marking his thought processes in a way that seemed insane to the casual observer.
Throughout the author's interviews with adventurers it seems that his rise to power is primarily marked by the misinformation surrounding who, and what, he was. Bits and pieces remain available through myriad sources, but the bulk of what was learned was indeed gathered from his closest cohorts and the man himself, when lucidity and bemusement struck him. Thus the documentation exists in as detailed chronological order as is allowed.
Prior to his death, Manzahar was a noble within the King's Swamp. All that is known of this time is that he was a powerful necromancer in life, and his crimes resulted in him being confined to house arrest by multiple War Wizards under direct orders by the King. It was there that he perfected the means to create artificial Myrkandite, known as death metal. What remains of this manor collapsed as of the writing of this tome, as it was exhumed by his retainers prior to the battle for Tilverton.
It is known that during his lifetime Manzahar had a wife, though the exact time and cause of her death are unknown. The archmage was consumed by grief at her death, however, and performed a rite to Clar Banda. The rite involved the ritualistic sacrifice of a dwarven woman before the observation of her husband. In exchange, the goddess took Manzahar's grief upon herself, thus ridding him of emotion towards his deceased.
After Manzahar's death, the timeline becomes clearer. He was slain by a war wizard, and when the Necromancer was killed he sealed his own soul away in a staff, the Aegis of Necromancy. Manzahar had intended to take over the War Wizard's body, however the staffcame into the posession of the Thayan Arena's armory. A wizard by the name of Wyrmlocke succeeded the trial in acquiring it, thus falling for the trap. Manzahar eventually subsumed all of the wizard's soul into his own, consuming it entirely.
Details are scarce of his deeds after this resurrection. He acquired the divine spark of a dead deity, granting him effective immortality and immense power. His experiments are ill-detailed, though it is known he pulled the soul from a dead consort from the fugue plane to empower a weapon used by his assassin, Grail.
Additionally many had been marked by him. The arcane sigil, a weathered and black raven, had effects beyond the obvious. The only consistent reason for this marking is that his minions can properly identify "untouchable" individuals, those he either deems important to himself or enjoys tormenting.
Manzahar was a devout individual, beyond the scholarly pursuits of necromancy typical of arcanists. He often pressured those in his employ and following to pursue rituals to the goddess, and would manipulate his enemies into supplication when possible. He considered himself to be one of her greatest lovers, a term internally denoted by the faith as a Pale King. It was clear from observation that he considered himself something of a messiah of her faith.
Ultimately, Manzahar's death was the result of a tremendous amount of factors. The forces of Tilverton, marked for destruction for reasons that remain unclear, were besieged by various undead of low intellect. This was a feint, as the Fallen House was attempting to stabilize the Helmlands and it's wild magic.
The ritual failed. Interviews after the fact suggest that it may be due to Tilverton utilizing the Aegis of Necromancy in it's defense, shattering Manzahar's concentration for a single second. Manzahar, wounded, retreated to his Island with his remaining forces. Victorious, and spurred on by the preachings of the devout of Tempus and Gond, the forces mobilized against the Undead Island.
As Manzahar retreated, expecting this retaliation, he turned to Baroness Winterblood, leader of the Court of Undeath, and custodian of Vorenthia's corpse. She denied him access to the castle of the island, expecting betrayal. She was correct, as the Count laid siege to the castle, killing her and the remains of the court, further weakening his own forces.
The forces of Cormyr and Tilverton made landfall on the Island and swiftly breached into the castle. They expected a protracted, devastating siege but were instead greeted by open gates. Two followers of Manzahar, who the author was unable to document, threw open the gates and used magical artillery to cut a path directly into the keep. The forces of the crown immediately breached, and slew the entirety of the House.
Manzahar, utilizing his own knowledge of Soul Magic, abandoned his mortal form to inhabit the undead Vorenthia. This soul-bound Demi-lich was ultimately bested by the combined forces of Cormyr, Tilverton, and the two nameless Betrayers.
The island, cursed by Clar Banda for it's failures as said by some, sunk into the ocean. The remains of the undead Court, the Forgotten House, Vorenthia, and indeed Manzahar were unaccounted for following the successful siege.
A revised edition is sent to the Library, with no further contact from the author. It seems to have been submitted for education's sake more than anything.
A far finer sample for the Library, a precious record of Cormyrian history. You have done well, for your service the library rewards you 2000 gold.