The Theories of Unlife

A compilation by Mnar Akurion; containing myths, legends, and theories regarding the origins and current state of the Unlife in Elanthia.

I. What is the Unlife?
A. ICE age concepts
B. Current concepts
1. As related by Voln
2. And as related by the Dhe'nar
3. Regarding the Vvrael
4. Ur-daemons
5. Chaos
II. Origins of the Unlife.
A. Empress Kadaena (Gosaena)
1. The Interregnum
B. Extra-planer theories (Iron Wind)
C. Despana
1. Alternative view of Despana
III. Service to the Unlife.
A. Origin of Cults.
B. Bandur Etrevion
1. Servants of the Shadow: Power through Thralldom
C. Cults in the Landing

Part 1

Our main question is. What is the Unlife?

ICE age concepts.
Much of the history of our lands is based on the Unlife, and the war it has waged against us since the dawn of our recollection (and beyond). However, history has become a neglected subject by the citizens of our world, so some clarification is in order at this point.

Most importantly, just what is the Unlife? The most common mis-conception around is that the Unlife and the undead are the same thing; this could not be further from the truth. Although few scholars agree on specifics concerning the Unlife, all recognize that it is more prevalent than the undead, with far more malicious and ambitious plans for us. Whereas the undead often suit themselves with haunting a location, the Unlife activly pusue the destruction and consumption of all life. However, this is not to say that the undead are not related to the Unlife; it is a commonly believed theory among Elanthian scholars that the undead, along with Luukos, are servants or "tools" of the Unlife. Many contest this theory on the basis that the Unlife is not sentient enough to use tools, instead it merely devours all, including the undead and even Luukos, were the chance to arise. The author of this text believes that both of these are equally valid, but combine to form a more coherent picture of the Unlife; it is sentient enough to employ tools such as the undead and the Arkati, but it would devour them in an instant if there were nothing else to consume. Enough of what the Unlife isn't, however; let's look at what people believed during the ICE age:

"The Unlife feeds on destruction, upon the deaths of individuals and societies with equal fervour. It is a thirst unquenched and unslakable. Indeed, the more it consumes, the more it seems to require. It has no source, but it is everywhere, waiting for a tool to open the door and allow it to enter. "

- Part I: The Unlife of Kulthea
by Lord Maruko Ashimine

The Unlife was a much more prevalent fixture in the ICE age, since then it has often been relegated to insignificance in the face of the undead. In the ICE age, it was a feared power, one to be dealt with carefully, or not at all. Thus, in most of the literature of the time, it is treated with fear or terror.

Demonstrating this fear is a section from the Visions of Andraax, a powerful foe of the Unlife during the ICE age:
"...We cleared the summit and it was as Kirin had said: ahead of us lay a wide vale, filled with the green of growing things. Sunlight warmed us and reflected off of a long lake ahead. But, scattered across the valley were dark patches which raced across the rolling hills, sliding like ethereal snakes. They were only shadows cast by clouds under the sun, but they gave me a feeling of menace; of malignant purpose. Even as I pondered this, one of the dark patches rose up the hillside and covered us. The sun went out, and I have never been so afraid before or since. We were in the presence of the Unlife."

-From the Visions of Andraax
Nomikos Library, Jaiman

Current Concepts.
Sadly, very little was discussed during the ICE age as to the origins of the Unlife, and we are left to determain this for ourselves. As noted above by Maruko, the Unlife exists outside of our world, and seeks a means to enter it. The author believes that the undead are one such portal; the souls of these unfortunate individuals are somehow able to breach the veil to the Unlife, and a small amount of the Unlife's power is able to cross into our world, thus animating the corpse into an undead. As would be imagined, Lorminstra is greatly in opposition to the Unlife, as it prevents souls from receiving her rest.

The ICE age is, of course, over, and with it we were left to re-write much of our history. The Unlife are caught inbetween; although certain GMs have stated that it no longer exists, references to it are still found throughout the lands. Many have suggested that a proper replacement for the Unlife would be "Chaos." However, this term is lacking in several respects, most notably the connotation of intelligence. The Unlife of the ICE age was a malevolent force dedicated to consuming all life. Chaos is simply the absence or slow degredation of order; entrophy, if you will. Needless to say, the undead are hardly fit to be powered by Chaos, nor does Luukos seem to serve Chaos--it's just not dark enough.

One notable group relating to the Unlife is, of course, Voln. Dedicated to the release of the undead, the monks of Voln teach initiates about Despana, and how she is believed to have introduced the undead to the lands (see Origins). Many in Voln have taken the next step in the service of Lorminstra, and are seeking ways to destroy the Unlife and its presence in the lands. This effort is greatly hindered, however, by the secrecy in which the Unlife works, and the social stigma which has recently arisen regarding such people as 'fanatics' or 'zealots.'

The Dhe'nar, as one might imagine, have had a long and involved history with the forces of the Unlife, usually as tools towards a greater purpose. For more information regarding them, please refer to the tale of the Stareater, as transcribed by Highlord Starsnuffer.

The Vvrael.
No one is absolutely sure what the Vvrael are, only that they are alien to our plane of existance. Sentient anti-mana, anti-life, they have often been described as. They first gained access to our world shortly after the battle of Maelsyve, through a tear in the Veil caused by Daephron Illian. As told by Merlock Hamburgian:

"Weeks, months, and possibly years passed by as Illian researched various methods to release daemons from beneath the veil. One fateful day, Illian discovered the truth. Daephron Illian had set up a private workshop beneath the caverns in Rhoska-Tor, and there he worked alone. Alone, his search for power finally came to a halt when one day he discovered the key. Combining new found knowledge with ancient lore, Illian gestured menacingly. In an instant Illian knew something had gone drastically wrong.

Instead of releasing the lesser daemons of the Ur-Daemon, as Illian had hoped, he released something far more terrifying. In his attempts to pierce the veil, Illian summoned the Vvrael -- collective sentient anti-mana."

-From "The Vvrael"
by Lord Merlock Hamburgian

Are the Vvrael in some way related to the Unlife? There is much debate on this subject, however there are several pieces of evidence which lead the author to believe that the Vvrael have some form of relation with the Unlife.

The first and most obvious of these is the fact that most of the minions of the Vvrael are undead. From lost souls to vaespilon, all were used by the Vvrael in their attempt to destroy our world. Although this is hardly unique (Luukos, Shar, Gosaena, and Sheru are all known to use the undead to further their purposes), if is a telling piece of evidence.

Another reason it is believed that the Vvrael are connected with the Unlife is the appearance of Lorminstra to the lands, and her warnings to us concerning the Vvrael. Without Lormisntra's guidance and protection, it is doubtful we would have survived to the discovery of the Shrine.

The third--and perhaps most concrete--piece of evidence we have is the word of the Vvrael themselves:


-Heard from the Skies during the first massive Vvrael invasion 4/15/98

"...FEED US...FEED US...

-Heard from the skies during the breaching of the Shrine 4/26/98

As is once again seen, the consumption of life is a large factor in the Vvrael's desire for our world. This same desire is seen in the Stareater (see Starsnuffer's "The Stareater") and the ICE age unlife (see Maruko's "The Unlife of Kulthea"). Does this mean for sure that the Vvrael and the Unlife are one-in-the-same? No, but it goes a great distance towards establishing the new image of the Unlife in post-ICE age Elanthia.

Like the Vvrael, the Ur-Daemons are something of a mystery to us. Refered to in the histories of the Lands as some sort of extra-dimensional creatures that feed on mana, these demons waged war against the Drakes for better than a thousand years. Finally driven out of our realm of existance in a titanic battle that killed most of the Drakes, these two may have some connection with the Unlife. Here is an excerpt from the "The History of Elanthia" regarding them:

"All this ended with the coming of the Ur-Daemons. Now believed to be extra-dimensional intelligent creatures, the Ur-Daemons somehow opened a portal to Elanthia approximately 100,000 years ago. They fed on mana, both that contained in the land's natural mana foci and that bound around all life."

-The History of Elanthia
by GM Mhorigan Parnell

The only real clues we have tying the Ur-Daemons to the Unlife are the sections of the history that refer to them feeding on mana (something of a stretch), and the sections of the Clerical tomes that refer to spells working on 'Undead of the lesser and greater demonic.' This seems to imply some sort of connection between the Ur-Daemons and the Unlife, but it is flimsy at best.

Chaos was mentioned earlier, in the introduction to current concepts of the Unlife. Many people have come to consider Chaos to be the greater force behind the animation of the Undead, and the motivation of many members of Lornon, particularly Luukos. However, to the author's knowledge there have been no quests, stories, documents, legends, fables, or other tellings that lend any credence to this argument. Thus, it will be assumed that the Unlife is still the driving force behind the undead.

Part 2

Origins of the Unlife.
There are few theories regarding the origins of the Unlife, and none are currently held in common belief by the majority of the lands. However, there are many older myths which feature creatures or forces which seem to greatly resemble the Unlife in one form or another. The earliest of these legends is that of the Empress Kadaena. This story is rather archaic, and has been ignored in recent times by most scholars, who have concentrated instead on the Drakes. However, as most of our current mythos is recorded by dwarves, we should always consider that the older legends have at least a grain of truth to them, and were most likely the origins of our more modern histories.

In the earliest of the ICE age recordings, the whole of Kulthea--and several other star systems--was controlled by a powerful race of magic users. So powerful were they, in fact, that they began shaping the world with their magicks to fit their ideals.

Of this race, there were two predominant factions; one lead by a being known as Utha, the other by the being refered to in most scholarly works as the Empress Kadaena (the current name for Kadaena is Gosaena).

For many centuries these factions operated without each other's knowledge, until Kadaena's powers became so great that she began altering the very world. The following is an excerp from the ICE age histories of this time:

After thousands of years, Kadaena and her followers developed the power to shape the land, and they began to modify their environment as they saw fit. It was not long before this came to the attention of Utha, for Kadaena's idea of a fit environment was a land tortured by earthquakes and cut by rivers of lava."
-From "The Shadow World Timeline"
First Era

The events detailed above occured approximatly 200,000 years ago, acording to the texts, which places it well before the reign of the Drakes and their war with the Ur-Daemons. However, parallels exist with our more modern histories; the Lords of Orhan (Liabo) are counted as servants in both of the histories, emerging from the ashes of their master's defeat.

Kadaena is the first being in recorded history to have goals resembling that of the Unlife as we know it. Her vision of a world riven by lava and split by quakes had no place for life, and there are instances later in the histories which show a distinct connection between her and the Unlife (see Bandur Etrevion, Gosaena, Interregnum, Cults).

The Interregnum.
One of the strongest connections betwen Kadaena and the Unlife is told in the histories of the ICE age. Several millenia Kadaena was supposedly destroyed by Utha, civilization was starting to rebuild itself, with the help of the Arkati. However, about 20,000 years ago, the Unlife appeared in the lands.

How exactly the Unlife arrived is a mystery--though this time co-incides with the fall of the Elven nations (see Despana)--but we know that soon afterwards, several cults sprang up in servitute of it, populated greatly by the followers of Kadaena, who were desperate for even a shred of their former power (see Bandur Etrevion, Cults in the Landing). These cults offered much:

Soon the young mannish peoples were presented with choices: They were offered great knowledge by these new cults, more than the Loremasters were willing to impart.

Some sevants of the Unlife impersonated the Loremasters, gaining the confidence and trust of the naive cultures in this way."
-From "The Shadow World Timeline"
Second Era

As in the ages before, when Utha fought Kadaena, there were those willing to fight the Unlife. However, they were greatly outnumbered and overpowered... But these few people took a stand, and were attacked by the Unlife, begining the Wars of Dominion, which would quickly lead to the end of the Second Era.

The quick connection seen here between Kadaena and the Unlife is the quick speed to which her former followers joined cults dedicated to the Unlife. Further connections are seen later with these cults, as is told in the story of Bandur Etrevion. However, for those wishing to see for themselves the relationship between Kadaena and the Unlife, visit the graveyard and crypt and take a quick look around (hint, Kadaena's name is now Gosaena).

Extra-planar Theories (under construction pending further research). As was noted in Maruko's "The Unlife of Kulthea" (see ICE age concepts), the Unlife is "waiting for a tool to open the door and allow it to enter." The obvious meaning of this is that the Unlife exists outside our plane of reference, much as the Vvrael and Ur-Daemons do.

There are many references in the archaic histories to a home plane for the Unlife, known simply as the Iron Wind. More information regarding this will be posted, once further research is concluded

Perhaps the most influencial person to have lived in the past hundred millenia was Despana. Even to this day, no one is entirely sure who or what she was, though several theories have been put forward regarding this.

To begin, Despana is believed by many to have been the first to open the door to the Unlife, approximatly 20,000 years ago, which corrosponds to the dates given for the arrival of the Unlife in the ICE age histories (see The Interregnum). The earliest known reference to the coming of Despana is found among the lore of the Dhe'nar, in a prophesy given by Noi'sho'rah, the spiritual founder of the Dhe'nar:

"Noi'sho'rah, disgusted with his own people, raised his hands to the heavens and darkness filled the room. All eyes were blinded and only the voice of Noi'sho'rah could be heard as he prophesied for his people.

"Know you that if the elven nations fall, if you fail to follow the true way, the dead themselves shall rise up against you. There shall come one with more power than has ever been wielded and she shall lay your nations to waste. You shall stand helpless before her, your own petty bickering paving the way for her to take even the mightiest of your cities. Her touch shall be felt for generations and you shall never again rise to the power you had before her arrival."
-From "The History of the Dhe'nar"

Little else is known regarding the origin of Despana, aside from unconfirmable rumors that she came from the jungles of southern Elanthia. Upon her arrival in this part of the world, Despana began searching for any lore or information regarding the Ur-daemons, and the magics they used. Her quest ended when she discovered the "Book of Tormtor," supposedly written by the Ur-daemons, and containing the secrets of their magic, including how to harness their energy and bring it to our plane (see Daephron Illian).

Regardless of the supposed contents of the book, Despana's next actions are very well known. Using her recently found knowledge, she created the first undead Elanthia has seen in recorded history (see The Interregnum). As well as being the first of the undead in the lands, this marks the first instance of the Unlife's physical presence in the lands.

Over the course of the next several years Despana's undead armies would rage across the known world, conquoring ever larger tracts of lands until eventually the elven city of Ta'Vaalar fell to her. However, this was the extent of her expansion, and afterwards the Faendryl would lead an attack on her keep at Maelshyve, destroying her and her armies. However, the methods the Faendryl used--the summoning of lesser demons (see Daephron Illian)--led to their banishment at Rhoska-Tor

Alternative view of Despana.
One interesting view of Despana that incorporates both ICE age legends and current mythos was presented by Lord Kree, a Dhe'nar, in a historical discussion with the author. Kree's interesting--and logically valid--argument is that the original ICE age legends of the battles between Kadaena and Utha--one possible source for the Unlife--are retold in the story of Despana. That is to say, Kree believes that Despana was the original source of the undead and Unlife in the lands.

The obvious counter-argument to this is that Despana is no where near powerful enough to be considered the origin of the Unlife. However, it should be noted that our histories of the time are very limited, and all that we truely know is that Despana was a very powerful being whose true form was unknown to us (ala Kadaena), that she fought a titanic battle which she lost, but in doing so destroyed much of the world (ala Kadaena and Utha), and that afterwards the Unlife have been a presence in our world.

Part 3

Service to the Unlife.
There are many reasons for pledging one's self to the Unlife, and entering into its service; ignorance, a sense of rebellion (sadly common among the youth), and--most importantly--power. Ignorance is the rarest of these three, usually found in the young and idealistic who have allowed themselves to be tricked into thinking that they are serving a different master. Often, cults dedicated to the Unlife that are seeking new membership will greatly disguise their intents; instead claiming to be of the Light, or seekers or knowledge, until they are satisfied that the poor fool in completely in their thrall, at which point they spring the bad news on him. The second common reason is also found among the youth, but usually only in those that have fooled themselves into thinking that they are "dark" or "evil," and thereby seek give their souls away, in hopes of becoming powerful channels for the Unlife. Little do these people realize how little the Unlife cares for them. The final--and sadly most common--reason that people serve the Unlife is for the power that it offers them, powers that are often greater than any they might find elsewhere. There is no denying that the shortest and quickest path to power is through Darkness, and often it is the minions of Darkness who are quickest to pledge ever more of themselves away:

"Through the surviving followers of Kadaena, who for long years licked thier wounds in hidden places, the Unlife found it's instruments. These souls, desperate for power, for even a shadow of the strength they once had, eagerly accepted the offers of energy from the Unlife and grew strong in dark places, gathering to themselves minions of many types and creating others to suit their needs."

-The Unlife of Kulthea
Lord Maruko Ashimine

This section focuses on the various groups and cults that have sprung up over the millenia dedicated to the service of the Unlife.

Origin of the Cults.
The first recorded instance of service to the Unlife comes from the ICE age histories, approximatly 20,000 years ago, immediatly after the Unlife appeared in the lands. This date corresponds to the arrival of Despana in the modern histories, and it is not unreasonable to believe that Despana herself was the first servant of the Unlife.

The predominant reason that the people of this age pledged themselves to the Unlife was the power that it offered; the Unlife had no reason for secrecy as of yet, and therefore didn't bother disguising its intentions. As noted in the excerpt above, the first cults were populated by the followers of Kadaena. These twisted souls had enjoyed much power under her reign, and were desperate to have even a shred of it returned to them. And it was returned to them, as completely as they could have hoped for. However, it came with a price; rather than simple servitude, which Kadaena had been satisfied with, the Unlife was hungry, it wanted souls. Normally this would have been a problem, but the former followers of Kadaena had been so thoroughly corrupted that their souls meant little to them. Or perhaps they still cherished their souls, but felt that they could forswear their oaths before death, and realize salvation.

Despite having sold their souls, the servants of the Unlife still felt a need for companionship, which they were quite obviously unable to find among the general population. Instead, they formed cults with others who had joined the Unlife, and together began plotting to further their own goals. It should be mentioned at this point that the larger portion of the membership in these cults continue to work towards their own goals, and prefer not to think about where their soul is going after they die.

The best account we have of the formation of these cults is in the story of Bandur Etrevion, as related in the next section.

Bandur Etrevion.
The tale of Bandur Etrevion begins several decades before his birth, with the coming of the Unlife to Elanthia. Shortly after the Unlife's arrival many power-hungry individuals threw their lot in with it, in exchange for the quick power it provided. However, the powers of good and righteousness were still powerful, and shortly after the Unlife had cemented itself in the lands, the Wars of Dominion began.

The Wars of Dominion were the most cataclysmic to have occurred on Elanthia since the war between Kadaena and Utha (Or the Drakes and Ur-Daemons, depending on which history you prefer). The Unlife and its minions were insatiable and destroyed everything within their path; it was all the Loremasters could do to hold them off. It was during the early years of the War that Bandur and Kestrel Etrevion were born.

Like many humans of the time, the brothers realized that the quickest way to power was by joining the Unlife. Kestrel Etrevion was the stronger of the two, and with the Unlife's aid he became a powerful warrior and general, while his brother used the knowledge of the Unlife to further his sorcerous arts. The two grew quickly in fame and fortune during the Wars, and eventually Kestrel came to be rewarded with a small parcel of land along Darkstone Bay (the current location of Wehnimer's Landing). Kestrel led a small but wealthy kingdom for several years there, but eventually became restless, and took off again on extended campaigns of war.

Without Kestrel to keep him in check, Bandur Etrevion sank further and further into the grip of the Unlife. His days were filled with the pursuit of more arcane and forbidden knowledge, while his nights were tormented by dreams of the Unlife. It was during this period that he wrote his famous book "Servants of the Shadow: Power through Thralldom." This book, which detailed the power that the Unlife had given him, was available at the library of Biblia several centuries ago, but was apparently stolen at some point.

As the years progressed, the lands slowly sank into decay as the Unlife exerted its influence through Bandur. Law and order quickly disintegrated, corruption was rampant, and the worst of the lands grew more depraved. Several small cults grew up during this period, rumored to be pledged to the Unlife. Eventually, things became so bad that Bandur was unable to continue with his research without constant interruptions. Taking a break from his studies Bandur ruthlessly crushed these small cults, established a powerful central seat of government, and enforced the law with a well paid and highly disciplined military that answered only to him. Finally, after the last resistance to his rule had been eradicated, Bandur established a large, government sponsored Cult dedicated to the Unlife, which everyone was encouraged to join.

At this point, a bit should be said about the Cult that Bandur formed. From the histories of the lands:

"Early in his servitude to the Unlife, Bandur had pledged to the Empress Gosaena, the first Lord of Liabo, to follow the ways of the Unlife. He turned his own bondage to her into the state cult, which he called The Dark Path. Followers of The Dark Path engaged in many heinous ritual practices beneath a genteel facade of prayer, meditations, contemplation, and the cultivation of physical perfection. They were ostentatious in their many devotions, carrying long rosaries of modwir beads and reciting out loud the Iylarian phrase "Gosaena Throk Farok." True followers of the cult of Gosaena who recited the phrase with great fervor and dedication were promised everlasting existence by Bandur, and after death were then transformed into various levels of undead creatures."
-The Legend of Necropolis of Etrevion
Kelfour's Edition Volume 3 Issue 11, by Simutronics, Gira Gavilan, Editor-in-chief.

Thus was the first cult of the Unlife established in the Landing, which still exists to this day. Servants of the Shadow.

Of minor interest to historians is the book that Bandur wrote, "Servants of the Shadow: Power through Thralldom." This book was actually written several years before Bandur formed the state-run cult dedicated to the Unlife, but the principles therein continue to be used by that cult to this day. Rumor has it that Bandur is buried with a copy of this book, as well as several other favorite possessions.

Little is known of the specifics of this book, save to high-ranking members of the cult. This is probably best, as the type of knowledge contained in that book is probably best left untouched.

Cults in the Landing.
Little can be safely said regarding these cults so this section will be kept short. Even the existance of such a cult is highly disputed, though evidence abounds that quite a large portion of the population counts itself in the membership. Like most servants of the Unlife, these people would continue to work towards their own ends while they live, prefering not to think about the deal they have made signing away their soul.

Only two things can be safely said regarding these people. First, because of the holiness of the sight, members of such a cult are unable to approach the dais in Lorminstra's temple, in the Landing. Also, certain undead are proof against attack from these members, as the Unlife apparently does not want them destroying its other tools.