Interview with a Zombie
(What follows is an interview with Danir the Undaunted, First Knight to the Faerie Queen Utonyae, Third Keeper of the Scepter. It was conducted by respected Tower of Merrell student Sylen Turou and used along with other such interview for his dissertation On the Metaphysical, Psychological, and Environmental Effects of Necromancy. Though thousands of years old, it can still be found well preserved in the library at the tower.)
I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.
I have a vested interest in your research. I believe it is a good thing to help further.
Then allow me to begin.
You are undead.
I am, but that is a gross generalization. The vast majority are nothing like me.
Could you clarify the difference?
There are three kinds of Undeath.
The first is purely mechanical where a necromancer instills life force into a corpse so that it may walk again. Within, the person it once was is gone. It is nothing more than an animated body, a mindless puppet for the necromancer to command at their leisure.
The second is Mental Undeath. It is like Mechanical Undeath, but the brain is reawakened, though to what degree is very dependent on timing, situation, and the condition of the body. It requires more skill of the necromancer providing the power. However, the reward is that one can tap into knowledge and memory that has not already decayed. The corpse is not really the person it was before, nor will it act like it. No conscience, no drive, no soul. It will, however, comprehend more advanced commands and be able to function somewhat autonomously, similar to a golem.
And the third is what you are.
I am an example of Spiritual Undeath. My form is imbued with the energy it requires, my brain and attaching senses are alert, but most significantly, my soul has been summoned back to reinhabit its skin once more.
Which is highly uncommon.
A notable understatement, but yes. Many complications compound upon one another to make the actual ritual difficult and costly and uncertain of success. If you want to understand how the specifics of such advanced necromancy works, you would have to talk to my queen, though much of it is a secret passed down from Osyrixia and she would hardly feel inclined to tell you.
Have no fear, sir; I will not trouble Her Semblance. However, even as skilled as your queen is, there are factors she has little control over. It is my understanding that the vast majority of souls lose their minds soon after they have risen. You are one of the few to have endured. Do you have any idea why you and others like you are immune to this madness?
We have no reason to think we are immune. It is possible we are merely resistant and will succumb to the madness in time.
That’s a morbid view.
Yes, but it is probably the correct one. Understand that I hold no confusion as to what drove those in a similar condition insane. The pain is constant; in a way pain never was in life. And, the disconnect between thought and body is unsettling.
Could you please clarify?
(considers) Though I have access to all of my past senses, there is…a disassociation, like I am aware that I am a…thing possessing my body and not my body itself. I command my finger to move like a puppeteer holding an intuitive string. It’s a very unpleasant sensation.
Does that mean you cannot feel your fingertips?
I can feel them; they just don’t quite feel like they belong to me. I feel pain—lots of it. Something people neglect to highlight about necromancy is that it does not heal the body. The wounds that killed me are still very much a part of me, and their agony never ebbs; a constant reminder that I do not live, not really. It is excruciating, and I do not blame those that go mad from the pain.
All to remind you that you don’t belong here.
But I do belong here. I belong by my queen’s side, and as long as her enemies are threatening her life, I will know purpose.
Those are not just pretty words. You have a precise soul binding contract.
And that’s required, correct? For a necromancer to call your soul into Undeath?
Your soul belongs to you. Nothing can be done with it without your consent. If someone wants to raise your body, they can. You no longer occupy it. If they desire your soul to be included, they must summon your soul from Abyss or wherever else it went, and that’s unreliable as it is. The soul sought may have already been consumed or just not wish to come. Assuming a success, the necromancer would then negotiate for permission to have power over your soul, with your spirit or the divine entity you willed yourself to. Unless, like me, you gave that permission in life, in which case you skip the negotiation and go straight to rising from the barrows.
But there is a price to giving another power over your soul. Your will is—
That is somewhat of a dramatic exaggeration. I am not a ghoul in one of Osyrixia’s mindless hordes. I am aware of my own will, and I can act upon it as I see fit. Yes, she has my soul. When she commands me, I must obey, but that is hardly the extent of my initiative. From a metaphysical standpoint, it is not dissimilar to being her familiar. Some, I know, would balk at such a circumstance, but I have been a Knight of fae for a long time. It really isn’t that different from what I was doing before. It may have been honor that bound me in life and something much more tangible now in death, but it turns out more or less the same.
There is the notable difference that death could free you from this servitude. You have no power over that which animates you. You will linger, even in agony, even when you would wish for peace, so long as your queen lives and she bids you stay.
I know, and perhaps that is indeed my fate, but Her Semblance has some incentive to free me before I lose my senses. Once the insanity grips me, I will have about as much value as a rabid animal. My uses would be limited. She could still keep me, I suppose, but the energy cost would likely not be worth it. Either way, I would not have a mind to care.
You are surprisingly calm about potentially being destined for insanity.
There is little point in fretting about it. I will do what is in my power, but much of the factors are beyond my control.
Speaking of factors beyond your control. It is a well-known fact that magic is drawn to life. So, I must ask, how has your magic reacted to your undead state?
I know well that most mages are practically nullified by the fact that magic is no longer drawn toward them. The irony is that their magic still answers to them if they reach out; it just won’t conveniently congregate around them. There are a few, like Osyrixia, who are so powerful they can muscle their way through the inconvenience, but it remains very much a problem.
But not for you?
I’m not a mage; I am a fae. Magic does not come to me. I generate it as a consequence of what I am.
So your magic is the same as it was in life?
No, my power is a result of my very nature, but my nature has undergone radical alterations. It is…different, diminished, diluted, defiled. Perhaps it will deplete and twist even more, but even now it concerns me.
Do you regret your decision to consent to this then?
What is there to regret? I swore Utonyae that I would serve and I failed. I have been gifted another chance. The pain, the discomfort, the diminishment of my power, the threat of madness…they are sacrifices that I am satisfied to make. Perhaps I still keep my head because I keep that attitude through it.
Then do you have any advice to those in the future who may share your fate?
Yes. (thinks for some time) You may begin losing pieces of yourself. Memories may begin to fade. It is normal, and it is inevitable. But you must cling to something. It may be a person, a place, a memory, even an idea. You need something that grounds you into the world of the living, something that reminds you of what you linger here for. That way, it’s harder to let the madness into your mind.
I hope it keeps working for you. Loria would lose much were you to fall to such frenzy. I offer you my prayers, noble knight. May you rest in peace, in time.
Lovely words, but keep them. Pray that I overcome the queen’s enemies, only then will I welcome peace.