Lost Province Miscellany

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Necromancy and the Undead in the Phoenix Empire

Within the Phoenix Empire, "white necromancy" - the casting of spells of the necromancy school that do not involve animating the dead - is practised as freely as any other school of magic. Spells which do animate corpses or otherwise create undead, however, generally cannot be used freely or openly, as discussed below.

Religious: The good gods of the Twelve (Hu Dai Liang, Ja-Cheong-Bi, Junfeng, and Qi Zhong) are united in their opposition to "black necromancy," and do not grant to their clerics any spell that animates mindless undead or creates hateful undead creatures. Of the Twelve, only Hallakdegi and Yun grant access to the Death and/or Repose domains.

Hallakdegi regards the creation of undead as a deviation from the natural cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation, a cycle of which she is the guardian. She tolerates a variety of "proper" funerary practices – burial, cremation, sky burial, and others – of which animating the dead to walk, to work, or to fight is certainly not one.

Yun is the only god of the Twelve who openly condones the creation of undead; in fact, his priests consider the creation of undead to be their exclusive right, and the practice is sanctified, though heavily restricted, within Yun's cult. Priests of Yun are very clear on the differences between "sacred" necromancy (sanctified by Yun) and "profane" necromancy (the creation of undead by anyone outside of Yun's cult) and zealously persecute the latter. Undead created by Yun's followers are normally retained as temple guardians or otherwise kept from public view; their creation may be lawful, but it is still, in the eyes of many, distasteful. Such undead are often created from the corpses of especially dedicated followers of Yun, who offers their mortal remains to the cult that they might continue their service.

Outside of the Twelve, Erlik, the Pale Mistress, and Parasra Vrani grant access to the Death and/or Repose domains.

Erlik has only a passing interest in necromancy, and even then, only as a particularly gruesome way of desecrating the body of a slain foe. He is much more interested in the act of killing (and eating) than in what happens afterwards.

The Pale Mistress courts foul necromancers to her worship, and delights in the creation of undead horrors that inspire fear and disgust in right-thinking mortals. Ghouls sing her praises and worship her in dark and hidden places; those among her mortal followers with the skill to create undead servants and guardians often do so, as her cult is neither a popular nor a widely tolerated one. Some among her cult practise animating the corpses of slain enemies, as a final insult to the defeated. The Pale Mistress disdains "white necromancers," or those who justify the creation of undead as a practical or philosophical endeavour instead of acknowledging and revelling in their depraved urges.

Parasra Vrani tolerates the animation of the dead only when the deceased have given their permission for their remains to be used in such a manner. To do otherwise is to bring anguish to the souls of the dead. Priests of Parasra Vrani place more importance on the words of an obviously distressed ghost than on any contract signed or statement made while that ghost was a living person, though most will try to resolve matters in a civil fashion first. For example, if a person sells their remains to a necromancer for reanimation but recants post-mortem, priests of Parasra Vrani might attempt to buy the animated remains before destroying them and easing the ghost's anguish; the necromancer entered the contract in good faith, after all, and ought not to be treated unjustly. Such cases are, however, vanishingly rare; most undead are created without a thought being spared for the wishes of the deceased, and the followers of Parasra Vrani seek to dispatch such undead (and their profane creators) as swiftly as possible.

Philosophical: Within the Phoenix Empire, it is generally regarded as better to pay a free man for his labours than to order a slave to the same task. The use of undead labour is judged by similar standards; to animate a corpse and set it to work is to either deny a free man both dignity and honest coin, or to deny a criminal redemption through his labours. A possible exception exists for a task too dangerous for a living person to attempt, but in general, there are better and less distasteful forms of magic that might be employed in such circumstances.

Similarly, the people of the Phoenix Empire are well aware that the souls of the dead do not always migrate quickly or cleanly to their next incarnation, and that defiling a person's remains can interfere with this progression and draw the soul back to the Material Plane as a wrathful ghost. Bodies are most often cremated; burial is the next most common funerary practice. Exactly how a person's body is disposed of comes down to personal preference and individual beliefs rather than wealth or status, though past Phoenix Emperors have invariably sought cremation.

Legal: In the heartlands of the Phoenix Empire, the animation of the dead by anyone other than a follower of Yun (either a priest of Yun, or an arcane spellcaster who worships Yun and whose work is overseen and sanctified by a priest of Yun) is forbidden. Those convicted of profane necromancy face ruinous fines or execution; the cult of Yun always demands the latter punishment.

In the outer provinces, the influence of Yun's priests is less pervasive, and local traditions may play more of a role in the perception and punishment of necromancy, though these traditions are seldom much more tolerant or more lenient. Ancestor worship is not uncommon, but its practitioners generally draw a line between consulting the spirits of their ancestors, and animating their remains outright.

Research: History and Nobility

In the late Season of Fire and early Season of Air of 740, the PCs conducted research into the history of the Hundred Kingdoms period and the Age of Giants, as well as the noble Lady Sae Joo-Yun. The results of their research were revealed in handouts at session 17 (9th August 2015) and are reproduced here.

Knowledge (History): The Age of Giants

DC 10: The oldest civilisations in the region of the modern Phoenix Empire and its neighbouring lands were those of the giants, whose reign went unchallenged from the depths of prehistory until almost a thousand years before the rise of the Phoenix Empire.

DC 15: The more intelligent and powerful races of giants subjugated the weaker giants and the smaller races, keeping many of them as slaves. When the decline of the giant empires began, their slave races rose up in rebellion, and many of the works of the giant empires were torn down.

DC 20: Giants now dwell only in the isolated and inhospitable places of the world, and ruins are all that remain of their once-great empires. Rumours occasionally circulate regarding newly rediscovered castles or cities from the Age of Giants, said to be filled with treasure – and still protected by ancient traps, spells, and guardians.

Records from the end of the Age of Giants are scarce, but scholars generally agree that the different races and empires of giants exhausted themselves making war upon one another, leaving themselves vulnerable to rebellion by their slave races. In addition to their formidable stature and physical might, the ancient giants were also scholars of powerful and destructive magics.

Knowledge (History): The Hundred Kingdoms Period

DC 10: The nine centuries before Shen-Lun the Enlightened founded the Phoenix Empire are referred to as the Hundred Kingdoms period. Tribes and clans who had been subjugated and enslaved by giants rose to prominence, founding their own cities and kingdoms.

DC 15: Much of the Hundred Kingdoms period was dominated by the rise and fall of different human nations. The worst of these could be just as cruel to the other races as the giants had been to their smaller slave races. Wars between different kingdoms was common, and much of the history of this era has been lost, deliberately buried by conquerors eager to secure their own legacies and erase all memory of those they defeated and subjugated.

DC 20: Many of the small or short-lived kingdoms of this period were ruled in ways that seem strange to modern sensibilities. Cruel wizards declared themselves kings and wrought magical destruction upon any who denied or defied them; the cults of forgotten gods forced entire populations into strange ways of worship. This period is also the source of several notorious and peculiar spells, and magical items of questionable utility.

Knowledge (Nobility: Lady Sae Joo-Yun

DC 10: Lady Joo-Yun is a reclusive minor noble, notable only as a dilettante scholar of antiquities.

DC 15: Lady Joo-Yun avoids social gatherings and speaking engagements politely but firmly. She is not heavily involved in politics; when she does comment politically, she favours centralised power, the Restoration, and the status quo. She is moderately involved in scholarly debate by correspondence, writing with authority on an eclectic variety of minor historical topics.

DC 20: Lady Joo-Yun is a “paper noble” whose title stems from marriage or an Imperial grant, rather than lineage. Quite how or when she acquired her title is a well-guarded secret. What is known is that she is quite elderly, having been a voice (albeit a quiet one) in scholarly circles since before the advent of the Regency. Those inclined to speculate generally assume her to be god-blooded.

DC 20: Lady Joo-Yun's most significant quirk is a strong concern for her privacy, bordering on obsessive paranoia. She tends to remain in seclusion at her estate, operating through agents and hirelings whenever possible. On the rare occasions when she travels, she goes to considerable lengths (and pays generously) to ensure that she does so undisturbed. She has been known to employ magic to protect her accommodations and her privacy. Even among her own staff, only a carefully selected and trusted few deal with her directly.

Letters, Papers, Documents, and Other Handouts

Letter from Nam-Kyu Kyeonggao, Ascending Air 740

A letter received by the PCs at session 17 (9th August 2015) and reproduced here.

To the Most Honourable Dawei Jun, the Golden and Immortal, Khan of Cogistan;

else, to the Ministers Most Diligent and Noble of his Government;

Word reaches me here in humble Zhidon Crossing that your Khanate goes from strength to strength. A thousand miles of the Lost Province now brought under your control, all in the space of a single year – most magnificent! And as your Khanate grows and flourishes, so too does Zhidon Crossing prosper – for Zhidon Crossing has long stood as the doorway to the Lost Province, and it pleases me to see that doorway opened once again, and not shuttered against the endless harsh miles of wilderness and the countless hungry eyes of barbarism.

I write to inform you that my House has delegated to my humble person all authority in dealings between the House of Kyeonggao and the Khanate of Cogistan, at least until such a time as a more suitable candidate can be found to shoulder the weight of this most considerable honour. You may think of me as your friend and advocate within the Empire, and of Zhidon Crossing as the Empire's doorway to your Golden Khanate.

It is with this authority so delegated to me that I propose that infrastructure be developed to assist in travel and trade between Zhidon Crossing and your Great and Glorious Capital of Crumbling Tower. The Gaur River and your own labours in the construction of canals present us with an excellent opportunity, should it please you to order the construction of a pier and its adjacent, relevant facilities in Crumbling Tower; or, if you desire that trade should be by land rather than water, it is certainly possible that our shared efforts could be invested in the construction of a road between Zhidon Crossing and Crumbling Tower. Should either of these options please you, it is my hope that you will accept an equal division of the cost, in resources and in labour, between your Most Magnificent Khanate and the House of Kyeonggao, that both parties might enjoy its benefits and its bounties.

Should you desire that a road be built between your Capital and humble Zhidon Crossing, it will prove necessary for either your Khanate or the Empire, through the authority that has been delegated to me, to lay claim to the lands through which that road is to pass. I offer you my most sincere assurances that Zhidon Crossing will claim only those lands adjacent to the Empire's northern border, and only in the aid of this particular venture.

I await your response and look forward to many years of shared prosperity between your Khanate and the Phoenix Empire.

Your Friend, and Honourable Servant of the Phoenix Throne

Nam-Kyu Kyeonggao

Lord Magistrate of Zhidon Crossing

Instructions from Do Jaan to Ironlords Deng and Gara Cheolju, recovered Resplendent Air 740

Deng Cheolju, Gara Cheolju,

My Ironlords, I have come to learn of an ogre clan that dwells to the south of here, naming themselves Greentongue. I have come to learn of their dwelling-place, a hovel that they might laughably consider a fortress; yet they dwell close at hand to the unshielded flank and fatted belly of the Phoenix Empire.

I bid you, go to these Greentongues, dwell among them and take your measure of their strength. I have little doubt that their numbers are meagre and their bloodline polluted – I do not expect to find in the Greentongue clan the strength of the Stonebreaker nor the Flamebinder nor, Lady forbid, the noble Ironlord. Yet I shall not dismiss them without first hearing your wise and informed counsel.

Take your measure of their strength and return to me. If they possess any wisdom, their strength, no matter how meagre, will be made to serve me. If they prove themselves fools and weaklings, know that I shall call upon you and your brethren to quench your blades in their blood.

His Thundering Majesty

Do Jaan

Letter to Myung-Un, recovered Ascending Water 740

This letter was recovered from the skeletal corpse of a hunter or trapper, along with a professionally scribed map of the Khanate and several documents detailing observations of Crumbling Tower.

Myung-Un,

I want you to travel to this place that styles itself the “Khanate of Cogistan.” Could be that they are glorified bandits, could be that they have the backing of one Imperial faction or another – word is they are on friendly terms with Kyeonggao. The map indicates quite a territorial claim – how much of this is truth, and how much is bluster? But I care less about their claim than I do their character – how do they run things, what are their goals, how do their people live? BE DISCREET. I do not relish the thought of another Imperial reclamation attempt, but I relish the thought of an unnecessary enemy even less.

H.