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The Rituals of Transformation

By Cormac Doyle

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

Copyright © 2000

Advisory: The magical rituals detailed herein are some of the blackest known, and their descriptions may be unsettling to younger or more sensitive readers. The author and editor therefore advise discretion. Of course, if their disturbing nature makes one more willing to fight this unspeakable evil, then it is all to the better….

* * *

The following is the transcript of a lecture to the Collegiate of the Arcane by sage Crom taal Kieranis, Professor of the Occult, with annotations by Dekdarrion, current holder of that seat.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Transformed are those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice—their lives—in return for the power which they crave. By purging themselves of all traces of the Essænce and embracing the dark tendrils of the Unlife, they are guaranteed to never age or die, to never feel fear or pain, and to gain more power than they could ever have dreamed. Of course, they are now dead … or perhaps more correctly, Undead.

    The sheer variety of different types of Transformed—corporeal versus noncorporeal, ritually transformed versus gradually transformed—can often make it difficult to attempt to study this field. The process of transformation serves as the principal method of differentiating between the Transformed, and it is these rituals and processes that I hope to discuss in this talk.

  3. The Gradually Transformed: Ghouls
  4. Perhaps the best place for us to start in this field of study would be to consider the first recorded incidence of transformation, and the implications that it has on our field of study.

    At this point in the lecture, the speaker paused to carefully open an ornate wooden scroll-case. He slowly extracted an ancient-looking scroll. The care that he took in handling it demonstrated a level of reverence that I had not believed he possessed at all—his cold demeanour had always given me the shivers.

    This scroll represents the oldest piece of written history in the entire realm of Palia, perhaps all of Kulthea. Well preserved, and protected by a variety of enchantments, it is still very sensitive to moisture and dust—even I had to strive for many years with the Council of Knowledge before they gave me permission to handle it rather than one of the copies that have been created. If we can trust the author of the scroll, it dates back to the Khelerem Alliance of Palia.

    The Khelerem Alliance was always thought to be not much more than legend—a loose alliance of Elven clans that existed at roughly the same time as the Wôrim of Gaalt. As far as has been established, it was the combination of pressure from the minions of the Unlife and continuous warfare with the Khelerem Alliance that caused the eventual collapse of the Wôrim.

    I have read these words over and over, yet they still give me pause to think—for they were written almost fifty thousand years ago!

    …We have resided in this valley for only six weeks, yet despite our best efforts, our crops have not broken the soil. Tempers have begun to fray. I know that I am finding it difficult to rest—the headaches are getting worse. Allyn has proposed that we begin to build the central meeting hall.

    …It is getting harder for me to hide the fact that even the simplest cantrips are becoming difficult for me to master. These inexplicable maladies—headaches, stomach pains, indigestion, muscle cramps, and general aches and pains—are becoming more pronounced among many of my people. Ketryn collapsed in some sort of fit yesterday, and I fear that she has some sort of damage to her head. At least I was able to prevent her more superstitious neighbours from accusing her of witchery—surely I can attest that she is no magus! Everyone in the village is becoming steadily more abrasive and curt, and the general morale of my people is declining steadily. They are becoming increasingly lethargic and pessimistic. It hasn’t helped that we sighted a Wôrim patrol yesterday—they hunt us even here.

    …I no longer know how to help Ketryn—her hair is falling out; she is losing weight and becoming anaemic. I fear she will die soon. The entire village seems afflicted with different maladies. Some of the villagers have open, weeping sores that I simply cannot heal; others repeatedly injure themselves because they lack proper sensation in their hands and feet. I found out only yesterday that Gisah was chased from his home by his parents, because they claim that he has been possessed by a demon. When I finally found him, he was cowering in a dark cave, afraid of the light. When I tried to examine him, he attacked me—obviously he was in great fear and pain. I did not get a good look at him, but he no longer looks Elvish—the eyes and fangs look more like those of a cat. However, I could sense no demon within him. There is something else occurring here.

    …In the last week, seven of my people have died of their maladies, and another twelve have disappeared. I fear that they have joined Gisah in the hills to the north. Those of us who are still well enough are meeting tonight. I intend to lead our people out of this accursed land. I can detect no hex or curse, and there is no illness that can cause these symptoms, but something in this place is killing us, or changing us into something new, and terrifying.

    …I write this by the light of my staff. Our erstwhile companions have attacked the village this night, and the battle still rages. I do not believe that we can prevail. Our attackers are no longer weakened by their transformations; they seem stronger than they ever were when we knew them. I have prepared a case to hold this log in the hope that the person who finds it will avoid this accursed land. I hope to transport the log to the meeting-circle of the clans, but if I do not, please ensure that the druids receive this log. The clan Halryn is no more.

    It is my considered opinion that this is the first recorded instance of a transformation—specifically, the gradual transformation of a living being into a Ghoul. There is no ritual of which I am aware that will result in the transformation of the participant into a Ghoul. Ghouls are, by definition, the end result of long-term Taint exposure, assuming the person "survives" the transformation.

  5. The Deliberately Transformed
  6. All of the other Transformed are what I would call the "Deliberately Transformed." The Deliberately Transformed can be divided into two basic groupings, the Corporeal Transformed and the Noncorporeal Transformed. I will first consider the Corporeal Transformed—the Dread Soldier, the Dark Lord, and the Vampyre—before discussing the Noncorporeal Transformed—chiefly the Spectre and the Wraith.

    Beings cannot be transformed while they live—the Essænce that courses through their veins prevents the Unlife from acting upon their bodies and spirits. The notable exceptions to this rule are the Ghouls, in which the transformation occurs over a long period of time, slowly corrupting the beings’ bodies to the point of death. Of course, because of the progressive damage to their bodies and spirits, many beings fail to survive the transformation. Many of those that do end up being driven insane.

    The basis of any ritual transformation involves bringing a being’s body to the brink of death before flooding the body with Unlife, transforming the body and spirit, dispersing the ties of Essænce that bind the spirit to the body, and reforging new bonds of Unlife.

    Before I give even the most basic overview of the rituals about which I have gathered information, I would caution my listeners. The information a watcher can gather falls dangerously short of the information required before it is possible to successfully carry out any of these rituals, assuming that one really wanted to be counted as one of the Transformed.

    3.1 The Corporeal Transformed

    3.1.1 The Dread Soldier

    The first piece of information you need to remember is that few if any Dread Soldiers can use magic, be it drawn from Essænce or Unlife. This means that the participants in these transformation rituals must place their lives in the hands of others. I am personally aware of three very different rites of transformation that will allow some or all of the participants to be transformed into Dread Soldiers—and of these three rituals, two require the intervention of Sibaal, the Lord of Darkness, Drinker of Blood. I will deal with these three processes in turn.

    There was a moment of stunned silence as people realised that he had actually spoken the name of the Lord of Darkness, but Kieranis pushed on regardless.

    3.1.1.1 The Path of Blood

    The first and most commonly used method for the creation of Dread Soldiers has been called the Path of Blood. As I am sure many of you are aware, the Priesthood of the Lord of Darkness has been encouraging its minions to take hostages. What I assume most people do not know is what exactly happens to their loved ones once those priests of the Unlife get their claws into them.

    The hostages are led north to the Temple of Sibaal, where they are held prisoner until the rite of the Path of Blood is to be carried out. At that time, the prisoners are brought out of the holding cells and marched to the Room of Despair. The Path of Blood lies within the Room of Despair. It is a trench twelve feet long and three feet wide, and six feet deep at the centre, with steps leading into and out of it. When the prisoners are led in, a grate covers the Path of Blood—it is a desecration for a non-believer to walk through the Path of Blood. Immediately above this grate is a matching grate with hundreds of three-foot steel spikes on its underside. Prisoners are tied to the bottom grate four at a time, so that their trunks lie on the grate. The spiked grate is then slowly lowered down—so slowly that if a blade misses a victim’s heart, it can take him up to ten minutes to die. This process is carried out over and over again until the Path of Blood is filled with blood (to a depth of roughly four feet). Throughout this process, the acolytes of Sibaal "purify" the blood of the Essænce that it contains, while the victims’ spirits are trapped and consumed by the ritual.

    The Path of Blood is now ready for the Warrior to be transformed. The Warriors—no more than twelve can be accommodated per ritual—enter the chamber naked, bearing only a single blade dedicated to Sibaal. One by one, they enter the Path and walk to the deepest section, where they meet the High Priest. The High Priest takes the weapon the Warrior has prepared, and—taking firm hold of his scalp—ceremoniously slits the Warrior’s throat. Then, as the life drains out of the Warrior, the High Priest completely submerges the Warrior, holding him under the surface of the blood for approximately two minutes as he invokes Sibaal. The new Dread Soldier then emerges from the Path, seemingly whole. On rare occasions, a Warrior might struggle or flinch when the High Priest goes to start the transformation. If this occurs, the High Priest will stop, drag the would-be Warrior out of the Path, and drain him of his blood and soul just like one of the sacrificial prisoners. The weapon he had prepared is then destroyed in the Fires of Sibaal, the volcano that serves as Sibaal’s home and one of the small number of rifts linking the Plane of the Unlife to Kulthea.

    3.1.1.2 The Blade of Sibaal

    The second rite is the Blade of Sibaal. Technically this is not a ritual but rather a weapon sacred to Sibaal. When a Warrior who follows Sibaal wants to make the transformation, he merely has to be ritually eviscerated with this blade. He will arise healed, the newest Warrior of Sibaal. The transformation is relatively slow, taking five days. Unfortunately, if the Warrior is not truly ready to be transformed, the blade will consume his soul and his body will become an animated corpse, blindly serving the whim of Sibaal or his servants.

    3.1.1.3 The Covenant of the Twelve

    The final rite is the Covenant of the Twelve. Unlike the previous two processes, the Covenant of the Twelve does not rely on the intervention of Sibaal. However, this means that it must be "powered" by the participants. Normally, there are thirteen participants in the ritual: five Spell-Users versed in the ritual, seven Warriors, and a single sacrificial victim. The five Spell-Users prepare a pentagram inscribed with a complex series of runes and words of power, surrounding the victim, who must be a young man or woman, preferably just out of childhood and full of vigour. The Spell-Users then inscribe a heptagram within the pentagram. On the Night of Darkness (when Orhan is new), the participants take their positions, the victim lying at the centre, with the Warriors at the vertices of the heptagram and the Spell-Users at the vertices of the pentagram. The Spell-Users intone the ritual, culminating in the Warriors simultaneously driving their blades into the torso of the victim, and then falling on the blades themselves. The ritual captures the spirit of the victim and consumes it utterly, using it to help power the transformation. The Spell-Users must arrange for the Warriors to be carried to a safe resting place, where they can lie—seemingly dead—for an entire day before rising again, whole and unhurt.

    At this point in the lecture, Kieranis stopped for five minutes. This was probably all to the good—I doubt I could have taken in anything else. Of course, I had no sooner started to talk to my fellow students when Kieranis stepped up to the podium, and silence fell again on the auditorium.

    3.1.2 The Dark Lords

    While it is true that almost all of the Dark Lords are "self-made," the exact details of the how and the why they choose to perform the Ritual of Transformation is something that can be difficult for the observer to understand. One of the most consistent themes that I have encountered in the study of this topic is that the draw of the Unlife rests in its perceived power. However, probably the best way to understand what drives a person to the Unlife would be to ask them. Unfortunately, I doubt any of the Transformed would care to come here to answer the questions of impudent students of the Essænce! Fortunately, in my travels I have come across some texts that may be pertinent to our discussion.

    3.1.2.1 The Black Paladin

    I have had to give this first case a lot of thought before deciding to present it, because I consider it to be one of the saddest, most harrowing stories I have encountered. I would also like to note that I have managed to confirm much of the story from a source that I would consider beyond repute, the Templars of Vult. I have chosen these particular excerpts because they are indicative of the decisions and reasoning that led a Templar to go from hunting the Unlife to joining it.

    Like many of the other attendees in the auditorium, none of us had noticed the shadowy presence of two Templars in our midst until Kieranis nodded to them. Those guys may hunt the Unlife, but they still unnerve me.

    …The master-at-arms has often said that my sword arm is the best in the realm, and today I proved him right—I finally defeated him. Tonight we celebrate. The Day of the New Dawn approaches, and it is my greatest wish to take my final vows on the day that celebrates Vult’s return to us.

    >…Only five days since I took my vows, and I have already been given an assignment—I am to lead four squires to the Pavaran region to investigate the problems one of our Prelates has been experiencing. It cannot bode well that Ghouls have attacked the village he protects five times since the last solstice.

    …Our inability to trace the source of these attacks is troubling. I know that a Dark Lord has established a citadel somewhere in this region, but I am unable to locate it. I have had to send to the priory at Kelan for additional squires, because one of my companions was slain in the last confrontation. I have begun to realise that it will not be possible to defeat this threat if I do not learn more about how to detect and counter its influence.

    …With the strength of Vult, the Templars will always prevail against the foul creatures of Unlife. My studies have borne fruit, and I was able to learn a minor incantation that allowed me to detect the foul creature’s citadel. The Lich quailed before the wrath of Vult—and my sword separated the vile being’s head from its shoulders.

    …My meditations have been disturbed since our confrontation with the vile Lich. Could it be that it let us defeat it? Nay, it is just my remorse for the loss of Jered. If I had begun my studies sooner, I could have avoided his death. We had a hero’s welcome when we returned to Kelan, but I have found myself anxious to learn more about how to detect and counter the abilities of the Dark Lords. It was my ability to detect the Lich’s attempts to draw upon the Unlife that allowed us to defeat it. I am afraid that were the Templar Prelacy to become aware of my studies, they would instruct me to desist, for it is forbidden to study the dark arts even with good intent.

    …A Vampyre attacked the compound last night! This is the first time in nearly seven centuries that such a creature has come this close to our compound. I sensed its presence before any of the guards had raised an alarm, and I led my men to it before it could kill more than two people. But when I confronted it, it laughed! Laughed at me! I tried to summon the wrath of Vult to destroy it, and nothing happened. My companions were able to destroy it, but my inability to draw upon the power of Vult has left me confused. Perhaps I should approach the Prelacy?

    …Another attack—and this time four Vampyres. Again I led my men to the scene before any of the other Templars realised anything was wrong, but again my powers failed me. I had lost almost my entire team when I suddenly realised that I could turn the vampyres’ own power against them. My attack destroyed them all. Beral asked for a transfer to a new team this morning. I think he blames me for the loss of our compatriots. I have also noticed him giving me some strange looks when he thinks I am not looking. I am not sure I trust him. Perhaps he is the reason those spawn of Sibaal keep attacking.

    …Only ten days since the last attack, and another group of Vampyres has attacked us. This time the Prelacy was ready, and we destroyed them before they could enter the grounds. I did not assist in the defence—I have been unable to touch the power of Vult since the last attack.

    …The Spawn of Sibaal have attacked again—it is less than a quintar since the last attack and yet despite the approach of dawn, their numbers seem greater than ever. I go to assist my fellows—I know I can defeat the Vampyres."

    The following is written in a different hand. I believe that the author of this final section was a Templar commander of similar rank.

    …We were fighting desperately to prevent the Vampyres from entering the compound when Stefar strode up behind us. Nothing we had done had seemed to deter those spawn of Sibaal, but as Stefar approached, they hesitated. Raising his hand, he uttered something in a language I did not recognise, and suddenly the sky was rent with lightning lancing down among the Vampyres. Several were felled in that one attack, yet Stefar seemed to grow stronger, and the Vampyres swarmed towards him.

    Then from behind me I saw one of the Prelates motion us back. The Vampyres were completely ignoring us, yet the Prelacy wanted us to fall back? Then as we regrouped, the word came up the line—we were to focus all of our attacks on Stefar. This did not seem right. Not right at all.

    Then it hit me—Stefar had confessed to me that he could no longer feel the Touch of Vult. How was he fighting the Unlife when he could not use his powers? I could see the same conflict, the same disbelief flit across my companions’ faces, and then I saw Stefar’s erstwhile companion Beral realise what the news implied. The look of betrayal and rage was matched only by the speed at which he charged towards Stefar. Alas, he never got there. Stefar turned to look at us, and seeing Beral approaching, he smiled and drew his sword. Beral was an accomplished swordsman, but Stefar simply sliced him in half. Seeing that, we all attacked. That traitor did not survive, but we lost a great many of our number that night.

    There have been no further attacks. The Prelacy have suggested that the Vampyres were somehow aware of Stefar’s condition, and the attacks were co-ordinated attempts to make him draw upon progressively more Unlife until he would be willing to take the final step."

    When Kieranis looked up after reading the final passage, the silence and gloom in the auditorium was palpable. I hadn’t noticed him alter his tone while he read the passage, but the tone of his voice when he began to speak again was so much lighter that the entire mood in the auditorium changed for the better.

    So much for motivation. The text that I read obviously cut short before the person was actually transformed. However, the actual Ritual of Dark Allegiance is probably one of the least spectacular of the transformations. To the best of my knowledge, the Ritual of Dark Allegiance requires the participant (always a single person) to spend an entire day in silent meditation. At dusk, he takes up a chalice containing an ensorcelled mixture of wine, the blood of a Wrath or Vampyre, and a fatal dose of poison. The poison is exceedingly fast acting, and the Paladin will collapse within seconds of imbibing the draught. However, they never appear to die, as they often recover ere they ever hit the floor.

    3.1.2.2 The Lich

    The next group of Dark Lords I would like to consider are the Liches. In my investigation of this area, I have come across a variety of different "classifications" for the Liches. Unfortunately, any such attempts to create a simple classification scheme will collapse with real contact with any member of such a classification. For example, there is a tendency when discussing Liches to assume that a different ritual must have created the more powerful "Elder Lich." This is actually untrue—an "Elder Lich" is more powerful principally because of his experience and knowledge, not because of some arcane enchantment. Similarly, there is no such thing as a "Monastic Lich."

    The Ritual of Dark Eternity, the final ritual that completes the transformation of the Spell-User from being a creature of the Essænce to being something that draws upon the Unlife for its existence, is probably one of the simplest of the rituals I will discuss here. However, before I discuss the final ceremony, I think we should consider the diary of Ameth Tier, vizier to the prince of Kelan.

    …When my mentor died, I never dreamed that the Prince would appoint me as his replacement—I am nearly twenty years his junior, and I suspect that the Prince’s own mastery of the arcane exceeds mine. Now it is my duty to teach the family of the Crown the arcane arts—and I can only hope that my skill is sufficient.

    …The lessons go well, but I can already sense that the Prince’s second son will be able to manipulate more power than I ever could. It is already difficult for me to hide how close in power he is to me. Ah, well … the Prince’s cousin is due to arrive tomorrow, although only for a few days—she is due to lead some of the Prince’s Highland Elite to quell the uprising in the Northern Marches. Before Tania left to study with the Guild of Artificers, we had a very good relationship. She may have some suggestions for me.

    …The power she wields is simply incredible, yet when she uses her powers, I cannot feel any signature or disturbance in the Essænce. It is surely only the most powerful of the Masters of Order who can manipulate the Essænce so gently and so accurately that their signatures are concealed entirely. Perhaps it was simply my lack of confidence, but while she was at the court, I found it harder than ever to control my signature. When I asked her to show me how to conceal my power signature, she simply smiled and said that as long as my primary focus was Chaotic, I would be unable to conceal my signature. She did, however, have some suggestions on how to improve my focus techniques. They have been helping considerably.

    …Unfortunately, it has become obvious to certain members of the court that the Prince’s second son is stronger than I am. I have retained my position because my knowledge far exceeds his. I just wish I had more power—I feel impotent when the child is near me. I know the Guild of Artificers has traditionally refused to create items that focus the power of Essænce, but I hope I will be able to persuade the Prince’s cousin to get me something.

    …She returned—victoriously, of course. When I explained my situation to her, she agreed to look into it. I never expected her to return that very same day with an unadorned silver ring. I laughed when she warned me that although it would allow me to wield considerably more power than I could unassisted, it could make it more difficult to control the exact effects. I have never had a problem controlling the power I could wield; the problem has been the limited amount of power I had at my disposal.

    …I have noticed that when I use the ring to focus the power I draw upon, it "tastes" slightly different, slightly acrid. I have also noticed that after focusing power through the ring, almost all spells become more difficult to use until I have centred myself the way she showed me. I don’t really care—I now have enough power to continue teaching the Prince’s son. Tania has also agreed to show me some of the techniques of the Guild of Artificers. Of course, with them being Guild secrets, she warned me that I should be careful about using the techniques in a conspicuous manner.

    …My private lessons with Tania go apace. Unfortunately, my health is suffering from the hectic schedule I am trying to keep—my duties in the Court don’t leave me much free time, so I frequently don’t get to meet Tania until nearly sunset. If my health deteriorates any further, I will have to approach the apothecary—my own physicks have stopped working.

    …That fool apothecary was unable to do anything for me—this after he gave me a whole host of vile-tasting potions. Tania has shown me how to use my powers without causing any appreciable disturbance in the Essænce. Of course, while I teach that precocious child of the Prince, I cannot hide the signatures—because it is always easier to understand what someone is doing if you can see the manipulations in the Essænce.

    …Tonight was a fiasco! Tania and I had decided to take a night out on the town, and some whelp decided to challenge me to an arcane duel. I was going to brush him off, but Tania encouraged me to face him. Of course, using my ability to conceal my own spell signatures, I was always one step ahead of the fool, and eventually I brought him to the point where he had to surrender. It was probably just as well—I was beginning to tire, and had been using the ring constantly. Suddenly, just as I relaxed to accept his surrender, power surged up though the ring, and my opponent was engulfed with a searing black fire that seemed to consume him utterly—in less than a single heartbeat, there was no trace of the fool. The thing I can’t shake from my mind is the feeling that washed over me when that happened—I was filled with a sense of well being and power that was both totally draining and yet also fulfilling. The funny thing is that I could have sworn that I could sense Tania linking with me for a second as the black fire surged from my hands.

    …I awoke this morning strangely hungry—a feeling that only intensified as the day wore on. That rush of power that I felt when I accidentally obliterated the challenger was intoxicating. Perhaps that is why I didn’t think when Tania suggested that we don some nondescript clothes and enter the city again. This time I did it on purpose. This thug was attacking a woman, and I went to her aid. Even under normal circumstances, he would not have stood a chance, but before yesterday, I would have simply arrested him and allowed the Prince to adjudicate. Tonight, I simply threw him away from the woman, then obliterated him—although I still don’t know exactly how. The woman was gone when I recovered from the surge. Tania said she had departed almost as soon as I had engaged her attacker, and had not seen my display of power. I was shaky as we returned to the palace, and we did not speak to each other as we walked except to agree to meet tomorrow evening outside her apartments, where she said she would explain what had happened.

    …When I met her outside her apartment, she was speaking to one of her officers, who quickly left when he saw me approach. She said that after tonight she would explain everything, but there was one more thing for me to do. We left the apartment and were joined by two of her officers. With the officers, we quickly left the palace compound and headed towards the encampment where her troops were stationed. As we walked, she explained that she had a few prisoners whom she had been questioning. When we arrived, the two of us entered a large, enclosed pavilion where seven prisoners where seated in a circle. Tania carefully explained that I was to prepare to channel the black fire at each of the prisoners—simultaneously—while standing in the centre of the circle. She also explained how to channel the fire properly, rather than relying on the instinctive channelling I had used the previous times. Mastery of bolt forms has always been one of my stronger suits, though I have only rarely attempted more than three independently targeted spells at any one time. However, I was confident that with the appropriate amount of preparation and concentration, I could do it. The prisoners weren’t moving, so it would be considerably easier to target the spells. I waked to the centre of the circle, and with the appropriate preparations, drew upon the ring to focus my power at the prisoners. The black fire streaked out and engulfed each of the prisoners, but even as it obliterated them, and I was filled with such a surge of power that I began to collapse, the fire arched back from the prisoners to me. I realised that some of the modifications that Tania had suggested were the cause of the arch-back, but instead of being obliterated, I felt purified, strengthened. Then I lost consciousness. When I came around, I was lying in one of the officer’s tents.

    …It’s funny, I no longer need the ring to focus the power I have been using—but I can no longer sense the Chaos I used to manipulate. Actually, now that I examine the ring, it does not appear to have any function at all. Tania has now explained everything—that I was tapping the Unlife when I thought I was using the ring to focus, and that when she helped me "attune" to the ring, she was really showing me how to tap the Unlife. Although I was initially furious that she had transformed me into a Lich, I could not stay angry. It only took me a short time to adjust to using the Unlife to create all of the effects for which I formerly used the Essænce. Of course, it is easier to be destructive with the Unlife, although as Tania has demonstrated, the more ordered powers of Essænce can be emulated as well. Tania has said that we cannot linger here much longer—the effects of using as much Unlife in an area as we have recently causes enough damage for the Priests and Mages to become suspicious.

    As you can see, his diary includes a very good description of the Ritual of Dark Eternity. It is interesting to note that he was first introduced to the Unlife through using an item. Although he admits that this was only a ruse, it is one of the many ways the users of the Unlife have tried to introduce their perversion to weaker members of the Essænce.

    3.1.2.3 The Grey Noble

    Although Grey Nobles are Dark Lords, the way in which they become Transformed is different. This is mainly because Grey Nobles are transformed, rather than transforming themselves. Very often, Grey Nobles were the companions or loyal retainers (knights, seneschals, stewards, etc.) of a person that became a Dark Lord or Vampyre. When the Dark Lord or Vampyre has gained sufficient strength, they approach their companions or retainers and offer them the opportunity of gaining immortality and vigour.

    Assuming they accept, the Dark Lord or Vampyre performs the Ritual of Grey Twilight. As with all of the other Rites of Transformation, the targets’ life Essænce must be replaced with a "life-force" based upon the Unlife. The Ritual of Grey Twilight achieves this by poisoning the targets, then "healing" them using the Unlife. The poison is normally administered in a chalice of wine, offered to the targets during a feast in their honour. Perhaps this ritual is one of the least spectacular, but it requires a very fine sense of timing and a capacity for healing that not all possess. Much of the "ritual" component of the ritual is devoted to accurately analysing the state of the person being transformed. More than any of the other rituals, if the Dark Lord is interrupted during this ritual, the target involved is likely to die.

    3.1.3 The Vampyre

    Finally, I will turn to the last group of Corporeal Transformed, the Vampyres. I have been unable to locate a diary or biography of a Vampyre. However, the following account of a transformation is quite enlightening. Before I begin, I would like to remind you that a Vampyre does not truly draw sustenance from the blood of its victim, but rather his very spirit or psyche. A person whom a Vampyre has fed upon cannot become a Vampyre—or any other form of Undead—because his very spirit has been consumed.

    I had been tracking that spawn of Sibaal for days when the trail led me to a small farmhouse outside a village. I approached, and through the windows I saw the Vampyre feeding, crouched over the crumpled form of the farmer’s wife, the pool of blood spreading from the ragged gash in her throat. The farmer was lying crumpled by the door, the pool of blood around him already cold and black. I was frozen, horrified by the scene inside the cottage, when the Vampyre stood up and strode over to the corner of the room, where I suddenly noticed a teenage girl, standing apparently unharmed but completely frozen in terror. The Vampyre spoke to her, though I did not hear what he said. I watched, transfixed, as the Vampyre took the girl’s offered arm, and then savagely bit her wrist. Even from where I was standing, I could see the blood come spurting out. The girl whimpered in terror and slowly sank to the floor. The Vampyre did not move to feed upon the girl, and so—sickened yet curious—I decided to observe, wondering what would happen next. After several minutes, it became fairly obvious that the girl was about to die. The Vampyre, who had been sitting watching the girl all this time, quickly crossed the room and spoke again to her. She looked up and smiled at him, and he nodded. Then he bit himself on the wrist—though judging by the amount of blood flow, he punctured only the vein—then he carefully held his arm over the girl’s face, allowing the blood to run into her open mouth. Swallowing, the girl was suddenly wracked by some sort of fit, as though she was in her death throes. The Vampyre crouched down beside her, and as her spasms subsided, he appeared to heal her wrist. At that point I decided to leave that place at once, for the Vampyre looked up and saw me, and I was ill equipped to fight a Vampyre that had only recently fed.

    As you can see from this account, a Vampyre can only transform a weakened—and willing—person. As we all know, much of the Essænce that resides within each of us literally courses though our veins, concentrated in the blood. Obviously, for a person to be transformed into a Vampyre, as much as possible of this Essænce must be drained away. Then, as the person approaches death’s threshold, the Vampyre will suffuse the person’s body with the Unlife, allowing the person to actually drink the Vampyre’s own blood as a symbol of acceptance of the Unlife within his body.

    Of course, this is simply a symbolic ritual—it would not be possible to drink sufficient blood to actually make the transformation, nor would the blood drunk be enough to replace all of the fluids lost. However, it is a powerful symbol of both submission to and acceptance of the Unlife, and as such has remained part of the ritual.

    The candidate for transformation loses so much blood that even with the infusion of Unlife that he receives from the ceremony, he would die without some form of healing. However, many Vampyres have at least minor healing powers. Such healing is only useful for treating their own kind—were a Vampyre to try to use it on a living person, the Unlife power that he uses would cause considerable damage to the living person.

    3.2 The Noncorporeal Transformed

    The Noncorporeal Transformed—Spectres, Wraiths, Revenants, and Apparitions—can be divided into two essentially separate classes: those that were transformed, and those that transformed themselves. Someone else transformed the Revenant and the Wraith, whereas the Spectre and the Apparition transformed themselves. I will deal with the latter group first.

    3.2.1 The Spectre and the Apparition

    The Spectre and the Apparition are both actually the result of a botched Ritual of Dark Eternity. When the cleansing Dark Fire arched back to the person performing the ritual, he lost control so that his body was destroyed. However, he was still able to use the power of the ritual to bind his spirit to this plane of existence. Obviously, he no longer possesses a body. Very often, this error occurs because the person attempting the Ritual of Dark Eternity was simply not powerful enough to perform it properly, which is why Spectres and Apparitions are often less powerful than Liches.

    3.2.2 The Wraith and the Revenant

    Wraiths and Revenants are most commonly associated with magical items. While the persons lived, they were given items promised to grant them longevity or immortality. Very often, the items also grant other powers, such as invisibility, the capacity to read the minds of others, or similar abilities. Often, the persons receiving such items do not realise that these items draw some of their power from their users. Every time they use the items, their spirits are bound closer to them. Very soon, it becomes painful—emotionally, psychologically, and physically—to be parted from their items for even short periods. Their physical ageing is slowed, but is unlikely to be completely halted, and the links between their bodies and their spirits are gradually weakened. Eventually, their bodies experience a catastrophic shock (a blade plunged into them because of their unnatural longevity, or a poisoning, or an arcane duel lost, etc.) and die. Their spirits simply reform around their focus—the item—and the persons begin new existences as Wraiths.

    While it would be possible to create such an item using the Essænce, I have never heard of anyone attempting to do so, nor have I ever found any evidence that anyone has attempted to do so in the past. Because of the inherent "unnaturalness" of the resulting Wraith, it would be considerably more difficult to use the Essænce for this purpose, because the Essænce tends to reinforce the natural order of things, even (especially?) when wielded by completely Chaotic users.

    * * *

    I realise that I have been speaking for a long time on this topic, so I will cover the individual powers of the Transformed in my next lecture.

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