by Phrastus of Elinhir
A study into the undead of Tamriel
It is an indisputable fact that necromancy, the foulest of all magical endeavors, is on the rise. Word of unsettled spirits, shambling corpses, and worse spreads across Tamriel, planting seeds of fear in common folk. There is good reason to be concerned, and it is my scholarly duty to inform the ignorant in hopes that a more educated populace will be better prepared to recognize and face undead dangers.
Necromancy, as you likely know, is the manipulation of souls, soul energies, or corpses of the dead. Unwilling spirits are often involved, and in the eyes of any rational being, the “study” of this type of magic is repellant. It should not be surprising to you that much knowledge of necromancy is attributed to Daedric forces, specifically those of the abhorrent Molag Bal, further cementing it as a sphere that must be shunned.
I present to you now an accounting of the general types of undead:
These monstrosities are formed when a necromancer summons and instills an enslaved spirit, often a minor Daedric essence, into a corpse or construct of bodies. Reanimations take many shapes, from the lowly skeleton (favorite of novice necromancers) to the hulking flesh atronach. The need for unconsecrated corpses poses a danger to communities, as it is known to drive wayward mages to murder in their lust for power. To minimize encounters with reanimations, avoid poorly-kept graveyards and hidden caves or ruins, and report any suspicion of necromancy to your local authorities for investigation.
Ghosts, wraiths, and spectres manifest for a variety of reasons. Some are bound to Nirn through powerful curses, some are summoned forth through rituals, and others find their souls unable or unwilling to depart due to unfinished business. Some are even ancestors bound by their own families, a practice the Dark Elves claim is not necromancy at all—guarwash!
My recent studies into the phenomenon known as the Soulburst indicate a tie between it and a surge in returned sightings and activity, strongly implicating a persistent disruption in natural post-extant soul conveyance. Detractors to this theory, notably the misguided Lady Cinnabar of Taneth, have yet to produce any counter-theories that do not crumble under the slightest scrutiny.
Undeath is not always a product of renegade mages tampering with souls and rotting flesh. Cursed diseases such as Noxophilic Sanguivoria can corrupt the living. The result is an undead creature that requires the blood of the living for sustenance. Vampires have a tendency to organize into reclusive clans, hiding away beneath the ground and surfacing only to obtain more thralls to feed upon. In some cases, though, their minds are known to degrade to the point of insanity, leaving a raging husk of a creature with no mental capacity commonly called a “bloodfiend.” Any sightings of such creatures should be reported to a local Fighters Guild.
Some undead defy simple classification. The lich, for one, is a corpse that is self-reanimated by the soul it bore in life. Typically, only powerful spellcasters seeking immortality achieve this state. Luckily for common folk, liches are often focused obsessively on continuing their own studies, and they are not likely to be encountered by travelers that keep their noses out of ancient ruins.
Now that you are more informed about this vile art and its repellent products, hopefully you are better-prepared to assess undead threats. It goes without saying (though I will certainly say it) that we all have a responsibility to report and combat necromancy, especially in these times. Do not let anyone convince you that there is some kind of benefit to be had in exploring these detestable magics—any reasonable individual can see the madness in such a claim.