Below is a guide to the myth and metaphysics of the Noble Souls Metaverse.
From the Notes of Marshall Lentz.
Most of the knowledge of the undead and their lore (beyond that which was derived from observation) comes from The Vorkuta Codex.
The Vorkuta Codex is a wealth of information derived from an archeological dig near Vorkuta of Northern Siberia. At the edge of the Ural Range, archeologists discovered a vast subterranean necropolis housing the skeletal remains of a species of human whose technology, sophistication of writing, and understanding of science surpassed our own. All this, thousands of years before Sumeria and Egypt even sprouted, during a time when mankind as we knew it was wearing hide and painting animals in caves.
Although this long dead people did not leave their name, they did make certain to leave behind a mathematical code to aid future generations in decoding their writing. This strongly suggests that they understood this knowledge would someday benefit mankind. The few scholars permitted to see this codex and those discovered around the globe since have dubbed this fallen people, The Albanastrans.
Below are various insights to their religion and lore, which, hauntingly, are shared among the undead.
The Foundation of their Religion
The Divine Realms: Astral, Ethereal, and Material.
The Divine Realms are the planes of existence housing forces that build and influence both that which is obvious and sublime in our lives. Think of them as three circles (or spheres) whose boundaries collide and intertwine, creating--in the ensuing violence--life as we know it.
The AStral Realm
This realm houses the forces of thought, gravity, and shadow. That which we know as MIND originates from this plane, a place of eternal contemplation. When seeking higher knowledge, travelers will attune themselves to ASTRA.
The Ethereal Realm
This realm houses the forces of will, combustion, and light. That which we know as SPIRIT originates from this plane, a place of eternal energy and divine burning. When seeking greater power, travelers will attune themselves to ETHRA.
The Material Realm
This realm houses the forces of transformation, friction, and binding. That which we know as BODY originates from this plane, a place of eternal evolution and manifestation. When seeking greater wisdom, travelers will attune themselves to MATRA.
The Dark Realm
Unlike the other three, this realm houses the unknowable, the absence of force. What emerges from this realm can best be described as nightmare, the contorted and grotesque mockery of that which is divine. Travelers seeking mysteries within must embrace its horror.
The soul is the combination of intelligence (thought/Astra) and spirit (will/Ethra). In the collision of these two forces, a soul is born. When souls bind with matter (Matra), identity is born and the soul begins a journey.
A vessel of sensory experience and physical transformation. It is through a material experience that immortal souls gain knowledge, memory, and ultimately wisdom.
The souls of those whose physical bodies experienced mortality and have returned from death.
Death and Rebirth
Once dead, the soul travels through the astral and ethereal realms again, accumulating greater knowledge and power. After three days (in the reckoning of mortal time), the soul then returns to the body, now a vessel for the immortal soul within. In undead lore, this rebirth is referenced as "being born of earth, Moon, and shadow."
The physical corpse body of an undead being becomes a vessel. In order to maintain their connection with the Material Realm, they imbue their vessel with energy. By transmuting the life-energy of mortals—most commonly by the consumption of raw blood from a victim—the undead replenish their health, strengthen their power, and gain greater knowledge. Though consuming the life-energy of mortals is the principle source of their power, they must also slumber in their mortal earth, the physical earth of the *land in which their bodies experienced rebirth. Only through appropriate rest can the undead retain and harness their intelligence. If the undead do not complete this process regularly, they degenerate into a feral state, becoming creatures known as revenants.
*those undead reborn at sea have an altered nature.
The consumption of blood from mortals is the vital source of power for an undead. It is presumed the blood contains both astral and ethereal energy. In order to capture the fleeting charge of these energies found within blood, the undead must draw it from their victim while alive. Standing blood is not viable, nor is the blood of the dead.
The undead may change their form, altering their physical nature as long as they are enshrouded in shadow. They may take the form of a mist, of the lizard, bat, or wolf. When approached in violent conflict, they will often transform into the gargoyle. In this form, their sorcery is limited, but they have improved physical speed, strength, and durability to resist corporeal damage, even from silver.
The undead can harness the forces inherent to the many planes of existence and use them to manipulate the material world. This is done through a process called attunement. In undead lore, all is manifest through vibration, the collision of forces both obvious and hidden.
Attunement can be achieved through two methods. The first is through vociferation, the mastery of vibratory resonance through voice. Those branded as "witches" and "warlocks" are also born with this ability, but to a lesser extent. The various fluctuations of voice are referred to as tonal keys. Mastery of the tonal keys will empower a cantor to manipulate the forces of nature: conjure storms, manipulate the elements, influence gravity, and enthrall lesser creatures.
Attunement can also be achieved through volition, aligning one's thought and will to the vibratory resonance of forces obvious and hidden. Through this method, the cantor does not use one's voice, but instead, channels forces by attuning the vibratory resonance of the physical body. In doing so, the cantor can conjure and harness the expression of hidden forces in the form of fire, electricity, vapor, gravity, etc.
One of the greatest vulnerabilities of the undead is their bond with their mortal earth. If the undead wish to ascend in power and knowledge (not to mention retain cognitive function) they must rest in the earth of the land they experienced rebirth. Undead wishing to travel to distant places, must employ familiars to carry containers of this earth everywhere they go. If the undead rest without their mortal earth, they begin to regress, losing awareness and power, and ultimately becoming feral creatures known as revenants.
Their other glaring weakness is exposure to solar light. While they will not burn, exposure to sunlight weakens them, especially during the late morning to early evening hours often referred to as "the heat of the day". Undead will rest during this time in earth chambers specifically constructed to protect against sunlight and to house their mortal earth. Since they drift into a deep meditative slumber, they are often guarded by familiars or other protectors to ensure that enemies do not take advantage of their lethargy during their vulnerable hours.
Another limitation is their inability to enter into the active dwellings of others without experiencing a significant loss of their power. The strength of the bond between mortals and their domiciles, where their families maintain sacred connections, is as mysterious as it is respected. The undead are wary of these boundaries and avoid them.
The least known limitation is one inherent to their immortality. While they will never experience another natural death (by age or disease), over time their minds can degenerate into a state akin to insanity. This occurs with the passing of centuries. The accumulated wear of sensory experience stresses the soul and causes a decay in mental function, which affects their power and control. This can be rectified with prolonged periods of rest, decades, sometimes centuries, of uninterrupted slumber. When such a rest is finished, they often awaken alone, disoriented, and drained of strength. Their minds, however, are sharper and their potential for power is increased.
These are people and animals enthralled or otherwise committed to the protection and survival of their undead masters. Without familiars to watch over and protect the undead during their vulnerable hours then they would be limited in their ability to venture out into the world.
How they are destroyed
The undead can be destroyed by being consumed by fire, a rod or stake through the heart, or the destruction or severing of the head. The undead channel power through the heart (the navel for ethereal energy), and they channel thought through their brain (the navel for astral energy). Bereaving them of either (on the safe side both) will break the binding an undead maintains with its host body. All this preferably done with tools fashioned from silver, as this metal in particular both burns and temporarily stems their ability to heal.
The power of an undead being can also be diminished if one can discover and invoke the true name of an undead. The true name will be what they were called in mortality. When they ascend into higher cognition from their revenant state, the undead will begin to remember aspects of their mortal lives, one being their true name. Undead guard this secret ferociously, often making a point to remove all evidence of their mortal lives. With knowledge of this name and of the place of the undead, even a common mortal could resist the undead's power. In the hands of a skilled necromancer, the true name will render the undead a subject of the necromancer's will.
How the undead come to be
Transfection: This process involves being consumed by the undead, while also consuming the blood of the undead. While this is the simplest method by comparison, it is also the least effective. Transfection is often marred by the subject becoming feral, insane, or altogether mindless upon rebirth, especially in cases when the turn is not voluntary. Even when the transformation is "successful" the newly born undead awakens in a state comparable to retardation. It takes years of patient tutelage by a master to help the creature rise from this lowly caste.
The Corporeia: This is an ancient ritual or formula undertaken by a willing initiate to become undead. The mortal wishing to become undead must corrupt their natural body into a state of decay. Every step must be done with fidelity, every ingredient must be exact, and the candidate's will must be strong in order to succeed. Though the process is shrouded in mystery, the theme of the Corporeia is the consumption of base creatures in pedigree, all the way up the food chain to higher predators. For example, the consumption of common flies, to the spider, to the bird, to the cat, etc. It is thought that many historically famous philosophers had tried and failed this process. The most notable being Socrates, with the taking of the hemlock as the final step. Another is Rasputin and his consumption of poisons and the venom of serpents.
Transcendence: There are special mortals who are born with the natural ability to travel through the Divine Realms, the Astral and Ethereal Realms being the most significant. These people are branded with titles like witch, warlock, necromancer, etc. While traveling through the astral planes, these mortals are able to attain knowledge of past ages by communing with the minds of the dead. In the Ethereal Realm, they can attune themselves to the very forces that express themselves in Nature—wind, flame, electricity, gravity, etc. As a result, these special people return to their physical bodies having gained authority over the elements.
Their short time in mortality can be viewed as a mere preparatory stage for their rise into immortality. After their death, the souls of transcendent mortals return to their fallen corpse, rising as undead. After their rebirth, they are not bound by previous limitations. Like any article of clothing, their bodies can then be manipulated, repaired and improved through the transmutation of energy. Their power over the elements has increased and continues throughout their ascendance.
All undead share this common form of growth. Ascendance is the totality of their rise through the infinite spheres of knowledge and power. The speed and nature of this ascendance is impacted on how an undead feeds. If an undead, in its native infantile state, continues to feed strictly from animals (as they have a natural fear of humans), then it will remain in a feral, savage state proportionate to its prey. If an undead feeds from man, then the proclivity and the nature of their victims affect their acquisition of strength and knowledge.
These are special people born with the ability to master the elements through a process called soul projection. While engaged in a dream state, transcendents can project their souls from their body to travel through other realms, or through the bodies of animals. Experienced necromancers can project their souls into a corpus (a homunculus of their own creation) in order to walk the world without fear of real harm. They may also commune with the minds of the dead, and summon willing souls from the Divine Realms and bind them a homunculus or a corpse vessel.
Species of Undead
Reanimated corpses of no independent thought, usually compelled by the thought and will of a single mind.
Reanimated corpses with individual thought and will. They are usually the bodies of the dead that have been embalmed and prepared specifically to be vessels for eager souls to inhabit. While they have intelligence, they are often bound by necromancers to serve a purpose, usually shock combat. In past ages, powerful undead would summon violent souls from the Divine Realms and bind them to the bodies of fallen warriors, creating armies of the dead.
An undead soul bound to its destroyed parts. Those who hunt and destroy the undead are often fearful that the undead soul will find a way to return to the material world and haunt its oppressors in retribution. This led to soul binding (usually by way of phylacteries like the Isaac Lace). If a destroyer of the undead has its true name and the name of its place of birth, then they can recite a simple incantation and apply the phylactery appropriately. Once this is done, the undead's soul cannot travel from its true corpse. It is bound to it in all of its transformations.
Over centuries, the decayed physical parts of the undead bind itself to the matter around it, accumulating material. The result are relics, dark calcified crystals which ooze black substance and pulse with shadow. If anything living or dead is infected with the dark substance, the undead's eager will may consume the host, feeding on its life-energy while breaking down his or her will. If the host dies, then its rises in undeath as a vessel of the dullahan. Because standard corpses are not prepared for the corruption of the soul that has taken it over, the corpse does not last long, thus creating the need to spread the infection through exposure of its substance.
Undead (revenants) whose ascension is stunted, their progress limited to lesser degrees of cognition, mostly commonly on account of being turned by means of Transfection. They are typically savage, and while they lack higher sorcery, their power channeled into physical prowess.
Undead whose ascension is in constant progress, in as much as they remain close to their mortal earth and feed according to their desired path of progression. If they wish to rise in great physical prowess, they will feed from those mortals inclined to the physical (soldiers, warriors, athletes, etc). If the undead wish to ascend in knowledge, they will feed from those mortals with tendencies toward the intellectual (scientists, engineers, philosophers).
The Draugar (singular draugr)
These are a unique species of undead whose sorcery is just as potent as their physical brutality. Because these undead are the souls of those who rose naturally through transcendence, they are believed to have additional magical abilities attuned the Earth itself, their Trollskap. Though undead reborn of other ways (through Transfection or the Corporeia) may learn some of this magic through study, the powers (such as the ability to infiltrate the dreams of mortals and the undead) do not come as naturally. As a result, a draugr will consider itself the highest form of sentient expression in the cosmos, its highest creature. All other species of highborn are considered imposters by comparison.
A form of undead sorcery natural to the draugar. Some of their abilities include the infiltration of the dreams of mortals and of the undead. Principle among their abilities is the power to project their souls from their true corpse, the vessel in which they were reborn. By projecting their souls, they may take possession of the bodies of the dead (after three days have past since death) and of the living (if the host is willing, or his or her will is not strong enough to resist). Once they have possessed a body, they may transform it as they need, like any article of clothing. During this process, the mortal's life energy is also consumed, and this process can serve as an alternative to drawing out blood through physical feeding.
Charms, amulets, or other items designed to aid in the subjugation and destruction (or protection against) the undead.
The Janus Coin
Used for interrogation. A round coin of silver that paralyzes the victim when applied to the forehead. While the coin burns, the user may ask the undead questions and if the victim attempts to withhold the answer or lie, it experiences excruciating pain.
The Isaac LAce
Used for soul binding. A coil of various fine metals and fabrics that, when applied appropriately and used in conjunction with the incantation of the undead's true name and place of mortal birth, the soul is bound to that body forever through all of its changes.
The Kratos Leash
A coil of cable that subjects the victim to the will of the one holding the leash. If the victim attempts to resist it experiences excruciating pain.
The Golem Tab
A tab of lead that forces the victim into a deep slumber. When applied to the forehead the victim is paralyzed, but also placed in a state of suspended animation. If the user invokes the true name of the undead, then the victim can be made to perform actions.
A sarcophagus designed to house undead (or mortals) for extended periods of time. The sarcophagus is charged with astral and ethereal energy and while the user sleeps his or her body is preserved from entropy.
An race of ancient humans whose technology and understanding of science surpassed our current progress. It is believed they learned to harness the hidden forces housed within the Divine Realms to power their cities, which are thought to have floated in the sky. Given that their ruins have been found all over the world, it is assumed their civilization was global and probably lived peacefully in the same era of primitive man, possibly even construed as gods.
Pictographs and hieroglyphics found within the ruins portray these people as being taller, longer and more sinewy of limb than normal humans. Unlike modern humans, their skulls were slightly elongated, and their eyes were larger and more almond shaped. Little is known about their everyday culture since most of their records focus on the exploration of ideas and cosmic possibility.
What is clear is that they valued the acquisition of knowledge and higher enlightenment. Hidden within that drive, however, seemed to be a quest to attain true immortality. This struggle may have been what brought them into conflict with their greatest enemy and source of their downfall, the undead.
Very little remains to explain why they fell and how, leaving those who study them to guess. The most prominent theory is that at the end of the last great ice age, there was a sudden global flood, accompanied by storms that altered the world. Based on the strata where the ruins are found all over the world, it is clear that their civilization fell quickly and all at once.
Mentioned frequently in the Vorkuta Codex are temples of study, observatories of the divine called the oracles. According to the codex there were three, each one a representation of the cosmic forces housed in the Divine Realms.
It is thought that initiates who wish to study within the oracles must discover them or be permitted entry.
The Solar Oracle
The observatory dedicated to the Ethereal Realm and the study of its energy, a house of lightning and fire. A place of ardent love and rage, here they studied the mysteries from the birth and burning of stars to the nature of immortal emotion.
The Lunar Oracle (Archemance)
The observatory dedicated to the Astral Realm and the study of its energy, a house of contemplation and shadow. A place of steady meditation and focus, here they studied the mysteries from the structure of space and time to the nature of immortal genius.
This is the name The Red Widow granted The Lunar Oracle when she discovered it. Taking it up as her seat of power, she used it to gain greater strength and wisdom.
The Terrestrial Oracle
The observatory dedicated to the Material Realm and the study of its energy, a house of transformation. A place of unhindered metamorphosis, here they studied the mysteries from cosmic syntropy to the nature of immortal creativity.
The Dark Oracle (scholomance)
The observatory dedicated to the Dark Realm and the experience of its grotesqueries, a house of nightmare and chaos. A place of coiling dissonance, here it is assumed initiates studied the mysteries of horror and the nature of immortal perversion.
The worldly name given to the Dark Oracle. The Scholomance was thought to be the college of the Devil, where he took his wizards to learn forbidden sorcery. Revered by the undead, it is a place that houses the knowledge of all three realms, albeit in contortion. They believe that true power and immortality come by dominating cosmic forces, rather than living in their harmony.
The Night Masters
Enigmatic deities of the undead. Sometimes referred to as the Old Gods, and sometimes portrayed as a many headed dragon, The Night Masters are thought to be fallen beings of dark power who were banished from the Material Realm at the birth of the Sun. Though they are prevented from having any physical involvement with the world, if willing undead or necromancers commune with the Night Masters and are found worthy, they can serve as agents to their ever shifting designs.
It is believed that The Night Masters forged the Mantle of the Dragon, the vessel of their authority, as a revenge against the Material Realm and the new gods of light.
The Mantle of the Dragon
The authority over all creatures in the family of darkness. The being who possesses the Mantle becomes the Lord of the Undead, The Dracula.
Known also as the Son of the Dragon, the Dracula acts as representative as the Night Masters on Earth, having all their power. With it, the Dracula controls and dominates monster and undead alike, forcing his will upon them.