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Lichdom

Eternal Life

Written by Endrise

You will perish in only a few decades, I will watch the stars grow dim. I do no longer fear death, for I have long surpassed it.
— Maritesa

Amongst the many forms that Undead take, the Lich is the closest one gets to true immortality. A creature born out of the twisted rituals of a power-hungry mage, given eternal life.

They are one of the most feared living dead found on Fabulae and beyond, with an unbound hunger for all that lives. For them there is only the living to kill, and the dead to control.

The Lord of Undead

The Anatomy of a Lich

Despite the assumptions, a Lich is not the remains they inhabit. Instead, they merely control said remains as a puppet. To better understand it, Liches often consist of two components.

  • A phylactery, which prevents the soul from fading into the Ethereal Veil.
  • A vessel, often an Undead one, to influence the outside world.

As a result, killing the vessel does not kill the Lich. Their soul does not inhabit the remains, rather manipulates them. Should one destroy the body, a Lich can take control of another one as they please. The only drawback is the time it takes to reanimate a new vessel.

Should the phylactery be destroyed, the soul will move to the current body it controls. If said body also gets destroyed, the Lich will die and cease to be.

Phylacteries

Phylacteries are the artefacts made to contain a Lich's soul. Each one is designed to primarly do a single task: protect the soul and prevent it from fading away. To do this, many use several spells and rituals to chain the soul to the object in question.

There is no proper way to make a phylactery, with each one being unique to its host. This leads to many Liches getting creative with their artefact: The insides of their tomb, the bones of a loved one, a single golden coin or even a construct that wanders the realm.

The only restriction is that they can only control things on the same plane as it. If either it or its vessel gets brought to another realm, any link between them gets severed.

Magic & Powers

To no surprise, most Liches are powerful spellcasters with centuries worth of knowledge. While most dabble in the arts of necromancy, many master several schools through their lifespan. Everything from abjuration to transmutation with enough skill to bend anything to their will.

To add to the terrifying skillset, their new form grants them some new traits. A Lich's presence alone is enough to cause dread, while their touch drains the life out of almost anything. Some Liches might have other skills as well, like a chilling aura or disrupting nearby thoughts.

Combining both makes them an opponent few adventurers dare to approach, with even few capable of defeating them. Hence their infamy as the ultimate Undead being.

Becoming a Lich

Every Lich that achieved their eternal life are a hundred that failed to do so. It is a death cult disguised as a chance to become immortal.
— Death Collector

Becoming a Lich is a long and often tedious journey of self-discovery, gathering knowledge and preparing for the worst. As the secrets of Lichdom are not common knowledge, mages need to explore far and wide to even get a start.

From what one can gather, the following steps are required:

  1. Make the mind and soul devoid of any thought that might wish death.
  2. Create a phylactery fine-tuned to one's soul.
  3. Sever the link between one's body and soul.
  4. Chain one's soul to the phylactery.

How one achieves these goals depends on the individual itself. No guide made by one Lich will help a different person achieve Lichdom, or at least not with the same results. Hence why for even those with the skill to do so, the success rate of becoming a Lich is slim.

The Life of Lichdom

After the transformation, a Lich takes advantage of their eternal life to do whatever they sought out to do beforehand. With no worries of lacking the time to do so, they can spend centuries perfecting whatever their goals once were.

For many, this is learning the secrets of the world, advancing their knowledge in the arcane. Many seclude themselves inside their lair to research, isolated from the outside world. Many break up their ties with civilisation, making any humanity they have slip away.

Others instead seek out power, lots of it. They gather artefacts from across the realms, raise armies of bone and steel, all while preparing centuries in advance. By the time people become aware of a Lich, they are already at the end phase of their master plan.

Eternal Hunger

Despite the perfect transfer of mind, Liches still retain the gnawing hunger that consumes most Undead. Hence they need to eat, feeding of the life essence of all that lives.

While they can ignore it for a while, doing so can make the cravings worse. Many young Liches expose themselves this way, forgetting to feed themselves and going on rampages. If taking too long it can even damage the mental state of a Lich.

To ensure a steady stream of souls, most set up methods to farm them in subtle ways. From making a dungeon that harvests them and spreading rumours of treasure, to sacrifices from a local cult. Some even take direct approaches, harvesting hundreds themselves once every few decades. Hence why any spike in undead activity raises suspicion.

Demi-Liches

What is left behind is a desire for eternal life so prominent it is the only thing they think of. To preserve their existence, no matter in what state.
— Maritesa

Whenever a Lich neglects their hunger or loses their phylactery, their mental state starts to degrade at a rapid rate. Over the course of decades their minds wander off, losing any semblance of humanity they once got. Their bodies break down, becoming an entity known as a Demilich.

Fused to their last semblances of power, they are nothing more than a mindless Undead at this point. A dormant skull preserving their time on this planet, only to awaken whenever anything living draws near just to feed. It is not uncommon most to end up buried amongst their treasury, waiting for an unsuspecting adventurer to find them.

It is unclear how aware of the world a Demilich even is, or even if destroying them kills them. Some believe destroying the skull actually allows them to transcend to something greater. What that is nobody knows, nor do few even wish to know.

Type
Magical
Parent
Origin
Magical
Cycle
Chronic, Acquired
Rarity
Extremely Rare

Cult of Maritesa

A reoccurring pattern with Liches is that many worship the Undead deity Maritesa. Their influence most see as the foundation of all Lichdom, if not the fundamentals of necromancy. And with such importance, many worship them in hopes to achieve the perfect eternal life in return.

Many artefacts in their name often belong to high-ranking Liches in the cult, from pages of their diary to supposed body parts. However, there is also speculation that Maritesa is not exactly doing this to help others, but to benefit themselves...

Dealing with Liches

Whenever a Lich does show their presence, it doesn't take long before people try to stop them. Many faiths and adventurers alike will try to enter their lairs and thwart any plan they might have. Whether they are successful or not depends on who they are facing.

Dead Collectors and the followers of Kharon are the ones that show up frequent to deal with the Undead lords. With their duty to maintain the cycle of life, they try to end the Lich's defacing of it as quickly as possible.


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Cover image: Condition Cover by Endrise

Comments

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25 Feb, 2022 15:27

Awesome article! I'm particularly unsettled by demilichs as well as the methods to farm life essences for their own hunger. As a reader, I've always loved when power-hungry individuals take their quest for power to such an extent that they're willing to corrupt themselves to do it.   Perhaps even better yet, this article piqued my interest to such an extent that I fell down a long rabbit-hole of your world, which is fascinating! Great job!

26 Feb, 2022 16:43

Wow, I love this! It's a pretty familiar story, but written in the most interesting/entertaining way I've seen yet. I'm a sucker for details, and they are abundant while flowing with the big picture of the article. Like pyrrha said, overly powerful individuals are fascinating, and having a mechanism like this is both interesting and terrifying. I also like the cult associations with it. Just seems appropriate.   Also, this page looks AMAZING. The colors and simple decorations make it look clean while also reflecting the darker themes of the page (and, whether this was on purpose or not, I love that you chose yellow and blue as the accent colors. It's a nice deviation from the common red or green while still maintaining the eerie feeling).   As for syntax errors, the only one I could see was artifacts was spelled as "artefacts" a couple of times, but it didn't impede reading at all. The text was straightforward and engaging. Overall, amazing job! It's one of my favorite articles I've seen so far.

26 Feb, 2022 17:19

Artefact is the British spelling, like colour vs color.

26 Feb, 2022 17:23

Ah, gotcha. Thanks!

Grandmaster Abraxas Ilúvatar
(Um dos mestres da Oito em Ponto)
27 Feb, 2022 01:40

Demi-lichdom is so unsettling it actually made me lose a few minutes trying to not think about it. Nice article!