Caretaker of the Last Light Rank/Title in Istralar | World Anvil

Caretaker of the Last Light

As a soul fades, so too does the light it once cast on the world... and so it falls to darkness, without a guide to care for it.
  In the bitter, rocky cold of Vuorenmaa, it is said that the dead do not move on as they should. They do not enter the cycle of souls, and their pathway to final rest is one twisted from what it should be. This is the nation's deepest and eldest of stains, the original blot occurring millennia ago and leaving the land abandoned for centuries. Desperate Vaeltajat travellers settled there, seeking respite from the bitter winters of the Kylmävikk Desert but finding harsh rejection in the countries of Xin-Jiyu. In this bitter, shadowed land, they knew how to persist. And so they did. When their dead lingered, they instead found ways to wield necromancy for their own benefit, twisting the process of death enough to grant the lost souls the ability to move on.   Over time, the role was formalised, the rites set in stone. Stone towers were built to attract fresh souls, storing them in soul-lanterns that cast blue glows across the rocky landscape. Beacons, if you will, for the Caretakers.   The Caretakers of the Lost Light are those trained in collecting and freeing the souls trapped by their homeland. Faceless beings with little life beyond their duty, they roam the roads of Vuorenmaa in search of wayward souls that have yet to find their lanterns when not carrying those that were already trapped to their final rest. Their duties align with those of the psychopomps, and many swear allegiance to Pharasma and her psychopomp ushers, despite how their necromantic abilities oft run contrary to her power over death.


O Death, I offer you myself in sacrifice. Allow me to walk betwixt death and life, to bring the lost to light and right this broken river.
— oath of the Caretakers
  The general public are not aware of the sacrifices and oaths the Caretakers make to gain their eerie powers. This is by design: the Caretakers wish to be seen as trustworthy helpers, and to know what was sacrificed for the sake of others would be to taint that image.   Simply put: the Caretakers sunder their very souls, sending half to the realm of Death and leaving the rest to roam the realm of Life. It is a brutal, painful process that has an unfortunately high mortality rate; many would-be Caretakers are discouraged from making the attempt, and of the few that do try, only a handful are ever able to succeed. Too regularly, the rest are unable to leave only half of themselves in Death and remain there. As their souls are sent straight to the realm of Death to perform the ritual, there is no chance of any would-be Caretaker passing in the ritual and turning into an undead horror to be brought down by the Caretakers; the lost souls simply rejoin the usual flow of souls, and seek their final judgment unfettered.   The ritual is not without its prices, for the splitting of a soul is a horrific deed and psychopomps would usually come for those who practiced such barbaric acts. The Caretakers are aware of this, and each pays their toll in advance: their soul, once split, is to be rejoined in Death when their time comes to an end, and is to serve in Death's realm until their sentence is paid. How long that sentence may be, none know but the psychopomps - and their gods - themselves.
Caretaker's Lantern by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
Magical, Honorific
Form of Address
Length of Term
Related Organizations

Why Mother and Father?

The custom of referring to a specific Caretaker as Mother or Father is an odd one, borne of years of trust.   Local legend holds that it derives from when a village's elder became a Caretaker - one of few to reveal their identity - and retained the titles he held in life, but it is very likely that the title too derives from their connection to life and death, and the comfort they offer Vuorenmaa's inhabitants.


A pillar nearby holds a stone lantern at its top, alight with glimmers of blue. I see them and know them for what they are: lost souls, perhaps former wanderers like myself. Here, there is no true death without our Caretakers, but it seems this bastion of souls has gone unclaimed for quite some time. I can hear them whispering in the dark. Calling out, I think. What for, I do not know.   I know one of our Mothers. I cast my spells, and open for her a passageway. When she steps through, I breathe a sigh of relief. The black shroud over her face quirks towards me. I wonder what it is she sees through it: I hear the Caretakers see differently. I'll never know. Their path is not my own.   Her lantern creaks under its own weight, a ghastly construction of jagged metal and necromantic energy. It burns blue, too, with the souls entrapped inside - Mother has been active, then. I step back once, twice, three times, and break into a run as the screaming grows louder.
Graveyard of Lost Souls by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
The Caretakers are not merely there to ferry souls between one life and the next - their gift and sacrifice are too precious to waste on just one skill. Before one can become a Caretaker, one must first train in martial and/or magical skill, for Caretakers must also be able to handle the wandering undead and their wayward masters who would otherwise seek to use necromancy for harm. They often choose to use their lanterns as weapons, wielding soulfire and cruel, grasping necromancy against those who would ultimately use their necromantic talents for evil.   Some are lucky enough to be blessed with divine magic by deities of death or undeath, who may seek to assist them or impede them through the rules imposed by the magic they offer. In these cases, the Caretaker in question usually hides their holy symbol and worship whilst on duty, but does so in a manner where it can be drawn if the Caretaker comes under attack.   They also serve as moral guides and counsellors, and are often called on as neutral parties in debates. Whilst these are informal roles, they are nonetheless important to the people of Vuorenmaa, especially in smaller villages where the few avenues of law enforcement are often overwhelmed by mischievous creatures in the forests and bandits crowding the trading routes.   Being able to find safety in the embrace of a passing Caretaker is a kindness many citizens hold dear, and criminals often flee when they hear of a Caretaker's coming in fear that their victims may report them.   Queen Surma Tuulijäinen has continued to allow the Caretakers a number of freedoms not given to the commonfolk, allowing them clemency from the law so long as any 'solutions' to more mortal problems are reported to her throne by some means or another. It is said that her blind eyes can still see the shape of the Caretakers, and that she once sought the role for herself prior to her nomination as heir. In this, many are given to believe that the Caretakers carry whispers from around the realms to the Queen as her spies.   Whether there is any truth to that, only the Queen or her potential Caretakers themselves could say - and the Blind Queen is not best known for her verbosity.
When I come back the next day, the air is still, and the birds have started up their song. And the pillar is once more just a pillar, empty, part of the landscape. I walk past it quickly, and pay no mind to the way the shadows still cling.   Mother took care of it, after all. She always does.

Accoutrements and Equipment

Whilst Caretakers hold an array of equipment, two pieces are particularly important: the lantern they bear, and the black shroud and robes they don.   The lantern is unique to every Caretaker and is forged during their initiation rituals, shortly after their pledge to Death is complete, in perhaps the most gruesome of all their initiation rites. It must be born of life and death combined, much like their duties, and as such, requires flesh, blood, bone - and fresh souls. Cold iron serves as the binding material for the lantern's base, though the process deeply corrupts it into a much darker form of itself.   It is rare for Caretakers to ever reveal much of how their lantern was created. Some speculate that the life sacrificed to it is their own; others suspect that it must be one of the Caretaker's close family members. The truth has never been made publicly known, but given the propensity of Caretakers to hunt down criminals as well as undead, those who study the Caretakers and their strange nature suspect that the lives taken for their lanterns are those that were not worth leaving upon this plane.   The robes and shroud are far more simple, and differ slightly across Vuorenmaa. Usually, other Caretakers procure the black robes for their new member, embroidering protections and sigils throughout the robe to imbue it with the essential spells a Caretaker may need. In times of great need, the robes are simple homespun cotton and free of all magic save for that which the Caretaker has imbued themselves. As the robes are more standard, most own multiple sets and switch them - whilst out of sight - regularly to remain clean.   The shroud is usually a black veil placed over the Caretaker's face, utterly hiding their facial features. Some opt for a mask instead, or layer the two with a thinner veil. The intent is to invoke the funerary shrouds and masks used in traditional funeral practices of the region; a visual reminder of all that the Caretakers stand for.
the Caretaker's enemy by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
They're all different, every one. Forged with souls and pain, bound in blood, and chilled to bone.
— admirer on the lanterns

Cover image: Caretakers cover by Hanhula (via Midjourney)


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Jul 6, 2023 13:49 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Ooooo, I kind of love them. In a scared kind of way. The mystery surrounding the forging of their lanterns is really interesting. I wonder what the truth is.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jul 6, 2023 22:10 by Keon Croucher

Now this is a hell of a piece to answer this prompt. The role they play, the way they are viewed, the sacrifice they must undertake for the sake of not themselves, but others. The honoring of Pharasma even whilst kind of spitting in the eye of the concept of death themselves. And the lanterns, the lanterns are a truly wonderful touch, the idea of them, the look of them, all of it really just ties the imagery together. Well done, such a cool piece to read!

Keon Croucher, Chronicler of the Age of Revitalization
Jul 7, 2023 16:00 by Annie Stein

you had me at the requirements (which, i must say, is heartrending even to read) but  

The black shroud over her face quirks towards me. I wonder what it is she sees through it: I hear the Caretakers see differently. I'll never know. Their path is not my own.
was where my heart was fully won over   and then they look fab too?!! i love this so much

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 15, 2023 05:42 by Reanna R

Woah... it's like dark magic, but used in a noble way. So freaking cool! I love how every lantern is unique to each Caretaker, too. Fascinating article!!

May your worldbuilding hammer always fall true! Also, check out the world of the Skydwellers for lots of aerial adventures.
Aug 14, 2023 19:22

Forging a unique lantern, splitting their soul in two, tending to the souls. Job well done.

You wanna see what we did for the last events? Go, click here: Eddies Major Events
Aug 18, 2023 22:42 by Stormbril

They're so ooooooooool, in all the best terrifying ways. I absolutely love the lanterns, and their entire forging process.