Of all the beliefs around the world, what happens after death has been one of the most diverse and contentious. Even most necromancers don’t know the truth – that would require crossing the Veil completely, which is almost guaranteed suicide. But there are many things we know.
Between here and the Afterworld lays the Veil. It’s permeable, but it is much harder to leave than to enter. Nothing encapsulates the power and function of the Afterworld like the eidolon: infinitesimal spirits and the only things ‘small’ enough to freely move between realms. They pick away at our world little by little, a million little deaths like tiny fish feeding off dead skin, allowing wild magic to drive change forward. Unseen and (mostly) unfelt to the normal populace, eidolon are integral to the functioning of the universe.
Not all eidolon are equal. When something dies, a larger spirit is formed at the moment of death. Containing all the creature’s thoughts, memories, and experiences, this eidolon – called an animus – carries the experiential part of a creature’s essence across the Veil, while other portions of the dying creature’s identity go elsewhere. (This will likely be addressed in more detail in a later post on the nature of the soul at some point.)
The third and final class of eidolon are known as spectres. These powerful undead spirits are sentient and hungry, always searching for a way to reach the physical world. They vary in power greatly, and their purpose is a topic of contentious debate. It is well known that mass tragedies and events of great destruction can draw the attention of spectres, but it isn’t known if the events created them, or just called the spectre to them. Spectres have necromancer-like powers naturally, and can feed on the animi of others to grow stronger. Particularly powerful ones degrade the world around them by their very presence on this side of the Veil.
So how does one become a necromancer? They are made, not born. Sometimes through luck, medical/magical intervention, or sheer determination, an animus gets pulled back into its body before it fully crosses the Veil. Many people experience nothing more than a few out-of-body experiences, but a few (un)lucky ones come back with the touch of the Afterworld all about them. Their animus becomes a pinhole in the Veil, and they become a necromancer.
Through their animus, necromancers can manipulate the flow of information and power across the Veil. They can manipulate entropy, adjust the speed of decay, and ablate physical, mental, and magical forces. On the flipside, they can also reach across the Veil and draw things back. Memories, thoughts, and even entire beings can be pulled back – temporarily or on a more permanent basis, depending on the skill and strength of the necromancer. Necromancers can read the past of people, objects, and places, and even raise the dead. Ultimately, all that necromancy is capable of stems from two basic acts: moving things across the Veil, and bringing them back.
Because controlling necromancy is about desire, intention, and visualization, it is easy for the necromancer’s emotions to skew the process (for example, a necromancer raising the dead for vengeance will have a different effect than doing so out of some form of love – and most emotions are much more complicated than one or the other). The less complete the resurrection, the less intact the final result will be. Truly powerful necromancers can raise a near-perfect facsimile of the deceased, but it takes much less effort to animate a reasonably functional corpse. In effect, the necromancer ‘rebuilds’ the deceased’s animus and uses it as the animating force. No matter how perfect, a deceased raised from the dead will never be a complete being and will never be exactly the same as it was in life.
Finally, age plays a large factor. Old things can have powerful ties to the Afterworld, but without some sort of pre-existing physical anchor (such as the deceased’s corpse), it is much more difficult to retrieve something from beyond the Veil. To put it simply, the longer something has been gone and the less of it left in the physical world, the deeper into the Afterworld it sinks and thus requires more power – and significantly higher chance of things going wrong – to bring it back.
The big lesson to take from this is simple: don’t try to raise dinosaurs. It probably won’t end well for you.