Sula 48, SP~5,015
It is good to hear from you again. I am always happy to answer further questions you may have. As I said, my thought process concerning the undead is colored by my own personal experiences, so this may account for the somewhat disjointed organization of this letter.
In my last letter, I wrote about how Stillness makes Undead incredibly difficult to damage, affect with powers, etc. I know this seems bad enough, but it is not actually the worst aspect of the Undead.
As you know, Spirit binds together not just the creatures who inhabit Ethem, but Ethem itself. Spirit pervades the world. To use a very simple analogy, Spirit’s adaptiveness makes the world “soft,” while stillness’ inertia makes it “hard.” The result is that wherever Stillness-bound creatures go, Stillness pushes on Spirit, and Spirit yields. This creates a sort of aura of Stillness around the Undead. When a living creature enters this area, their Spirit is itself “pushed,” and its hold on the other Energies that comprise that creature is weakened. The practical effect is that a part of the creature’s life force — and their power — is drained. And to make things worse (because things can always get worse with the Undead), the power of this aura grows as more and more Undead are massed in a single area.
You specifically asked why they’re referred to as “Undead” when they are, in a scientific sense, just as living as you or I? Well, since Stillness does not usually occur naturally, it is extremely rare for creatures to be born bound by it. Most Undead creatures are the result of Spirit-bound creatures dying in an area pervaded by Stillness — either an Undead’s aura, or a Quiet. Their Spirit Energy quickly dissipates, but sometimes their Energies are re-bound by Stillness. Thus, the vast majority of Undead have actually died as Spirit-bound creatures and come back as Stillness-bound ones, giving rise to the vernacular term.
This process of resurrection is, understandably, quite a system shock, and most creatures do not survive mentally intact, becoming mindless, animalistic “shells” or “shufflers,” who roam semi-randomly, attacking anything they see. This includes other Undead, although they sometimes seem to form a sort of “pack” of shells. We haven’t quite figured out why, though we suspect it has something to do with the degree to which their Spirit was corrupted by Shadow. The more they are corrupted by Shadow, the more they are drawn to similarly-corrupted creatures. This can make for… odd sights. I once saw a pack of two humans, an ushen, four kamari, a wolf, six deer, and a large number of squirrels. The latter actually made me laugh, right up until they got close enough to me to start draining my life force with their aura of Stillness. I know it will sound funny to anyone who wasn’t there, but I will never look at squirrels the same way again.
The worst are the revenants — Undead who have made it through the process intact, and retain their sentience. Revenants are able to control shells simply through force of will. A disproportionate number of revenants are Channels, unfortunately, and they retain all of their ability to channel the Energies. Which proved a serious problem in the war.
I hope that answers your questions. If you would like a more scientific response to your query, I encourage you to write to my colleague Emil Hill. She is one of our leading theoretical researchers specializing in Stillness. I hope, though, that this letter will round out your understanding of the true nature of the Undead beyond just what GERC publications will tell.
Davvik Katten of the Fireforge Clan
GERC Shadow-Inflected Energies Department, Stillness Division