Necromancy is the forbidden practice of creating and commanding the Undead.
Throughout the Old World, there are those whose lust for power leads them to explore the basest of arcane lore. These are the Necromancers, and they are universally hated and feared, for they have chosen to delve into the secrets of death itself, corrupting the natural process of creation and destruction in order to stay Morr's scythe and control the unliving. They are doubly despised by all sane individuals, for not only do they rebel against nature by manipulating the evil power of Dhar, but they blaspheme against Morr by disturbing the eternal rest of the dead and commanding ghosts to do their bidding.
It is interesting that only humans seem to follow the path of necromancy. Keenly aware of their own short lifespan, a few depraved people seek immortality through the study of this forbidden lore. Driven by terror of death itself, they seek out proscribed tomes, such as the Liber Mortis or one of the Nine Books of Nagash, spending years perfecting their morbid art through obsessive study and experimentation.
Some seek out fellow Necromancers as mentors, not an easy task when these disgusting sorcerers are forced to hide in the shadows for fear of discovery and destruction. Many Necromancers dwell in forgotten places in the wilderness, where their vile experiments will not be disturbed, though some live secretly in cities, emerging at night to rifle the graveyards for corpses; the Priests of Morr are kept busy protecting the sleep of the dead from such degenerates. Many would-be Necromancers, in their desperation for illicit knowledge, seek out Vampires to teach them the ways of undeath, perhaps travelling to the forsaken province of Sylvania where these dread lords of the night hold sway. But they must trade their freedom for the knowledge they seek, becoming little more than thralls of their blood-sucking masters.
Necromancers are attracted to places where Dark Magic pools, for they can tap into this congealed essence to raise the dead to life and halt their own gradual decay, though it is ironic that in doing so they begin to resemble the very corpses that fascinate them: their pale skin clings to their bones, and their faces become gaunt, with hollow eyes and rictus grins. The stench of the grave follows in their wake.
Dark Magic is attracted to places where the basest of emotions have been scorched into the fabric of reality by terrible suffering: on battlefields ancient hatreds are remembered; in plague pits, horror and fear cloak the ground; in abandoned graveyards, the mourning of forgotten spirits is borne by chill winds. Those with magical sight can perceive the choking shadows that cling and feed upon the negative energy of these places. It elicits sickening terror in the hearts of the sane, but brings joy to the withered soul of the Necromancer, who can mould this black mass of magical power, and channel it into spells to raise rotting corpses, shambling skeletons, and worse.
The Priests of Morr range across the Old World, their blessings cleansing such areas and dispersing the Dark Magic gathered there, but theirs is a losing battle, for mayhem, disease, and grief despoil the lands with every passing month.
Where the eight Winds of Magic blow free in the air, Dark Magic is heavy, and sinks to the ground, and after many centuries can congeal into a solid malignant mass, which corrupts all it touches like a tumour. This black substance, streaked with lurid green, glows with unearthly energy. It mutates the living and can cause the dead to walk. Known as warpstone, it is a substance much sought after by Necromancers for their experiments. Chunks of warpstone have sometimes been known to fall from the sky – indeed the city of Mordheim, in Ostermark, was destroyed by such a meteor in 1999 IC.
Many Necromancers are content to hide within their secret libraries and laboratories, quietly pursuing their obsession with unlife. Yet a few are possessed with megalomaniac madness, and raise great armies of corpses to destroy the living, hoping to rule the world as eternal masters of death. Throughout the Empire’s history, such maniacs have posed a great threat to civilisation, and it is for this reason that the Witch Hunters and the battle wizards of the Colleges of Magic combine their might to eradicate necromancy wherever it lurks.
The Lore of Nagash
The black art of necromancy has a long history that may be traced ultimately to the Elves of Ulthuan. Though the Elves knew of the power of Dhar, undiluted Dark Magic, for years they turned their backs on it and instead studied the safer Winds. Those who finally gave in to temptation were the first of the Druchii, the Dark Elves.
When Nagash ruled Khemri, three of the Druchii were brought before him as slaves. Through years of torture he slowly teased the secrets of magic out of them and began his experimentation with what was to become necromancy.
Today’s practitioners of the black art use a form of necromancy that has been shaped by other students over the centuries; the work of Vanhel and Kadon, amongst others, supplements the fragmentary translations of Nagash’s work that survive. The works of these necromancers may be flawed, be missing passages, or contain traps set by their creators to ensnare the unwary. It is said the complete copy of Vanhel’s Liber Mortis held under lock and key by the Sigmarites is capable of devouring the souls of any who read it and once summoned a Daemon made entirely of fingers. Nagash’s original form of necromancy still survives, however. It has been maintained by the Vampires, particularly those of the Necrarch line, passed down from master to apprentice over the centuries along with the history of their kind.
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd ED: Winds of Magic
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED: Night's Dark Masters