Will-O'-Wisp - Spirit of the Marshes
After life's inevitable resolution, the freed soul is drawn naturally to the Necropolis by an instinctual calling that few know the origin of, yet all comprehend. And while the torrent of souls is a strong current, not every entity flows through. Like a pebble washing up on shore, some souls become trapped, either by forces unbeknownst to them, or by their own efforts. The souls which do not find their way back to their vessels, nor to the march for the underworld, continue only to reside in a limbo in-between.
A soul in such state is not devoid of emotions, nor is its essence impervious to the forces around it. In this torturous period it roams aimlessly, the soul aches for its natural course, either seeking the breath of life, or finality. In its meandering, Will-O'-Wisps sometimes encounter watery breaches, also utilized by the custodians of the ancient in the underworld, that allow them to traverse to the world of the living once again, albeit for a time.
The unfortunate travelers who encounter these drifting spirits learn firsthand of the skills Wisps develop through their hunger and despair, quickly becoming entranced by the bright dancing lights within their core, senses dulled by their singing hum. Passersby who look directly to the Will-O'-Wisps are thus taken hostage by their enchanting sight. Led to the isolation of the marshes, the wetlands of the swamps, or hidden beneath the tall grasses of prairies and within mausoleums, they perish to other lurking dangers who wait to split soul from flesh.
As the essence of the newly separated are drained from the body, the wandering Wisps commune with it, desiring to experience life once again through the fresh sensations of the recently departed—and through this, consume it. As a consequence, the verdant nascent flame thus age and convert into the more well-known pale blue orb, a passive reaver of souls, neither of which are as aggressive or dangerous to life as the dark purple fires, unrevived revenants who failed to find their vessels.
It is from the narratives of witnesses favored by fortune that many myths were born to explain the existence of Wisps, from which their common name was coined. From salamanders to fairies, from shape-shifting devils to humanoid pumpkins, they all fail to account for the true reality of their nature. The most proximate legend is that of the "spirit of the marshes," which yet erroneously attribute their manifestation as an omen of death... Nay, the floating lights are not omens themselves, rather they trail behind true omens of death.
The reason why the god of death leaves these roaming souls unreaped is unknown. Perhaps these entities, not quite living nor quite dead, serve a useful and sinister purpose to death itself.
Twenty-seventh of Hiem, in the year 218 after Deadhaus
I can certainly understand the need for secrecy between the intelligence and the other branches of the Empire, but I sometimes resent the secrecy between ourselves. If the Grand Inquisitor would just tell me why I am to research the Will-O'-Wisps, I would at least feel motivated in doing so. Instead, I catch myself daydreaming about strategies to undermine vampires and wraiths at every hour.
Still, if he believes these spirits are of importance to our fight against the dead, then it must be so, and I have to defer to his wisdom.
In my search for information, I questioned the inhabitants of the fringe cities for months. The stories I have heard could not be any less contradictory. Wild fantasies, they were. Some were prevalent in certain regions, others shared similarities amongst each other across the continent, yet I could not find anything I would call an underlying truth. Perhaps the most curious piece of information I inferred was that the apparitions seem to be more frequent between the months of Auct and Parat, yet I cannot verify or justify this, as I am yet to find a Will-O'-Wisp myself.
Three days ago at dawn, sitting outside a tavern in the streets of Mord, I stared at the rising sun as I entertained my imagination once again, envisioning a pumping device I wished to build... when the brightness of the morning light was abruptly broken, and I came back to myself. A man lifted a blood red gemstone to better visualize it against the sky, and the round trinket eclipsed the sun. For the short moment he held it up, I fancied I could see a perfectly round orange disc through it in detail.
I walked up to the man and asked to see his jewelry. His ecstatic reaction was short lived, as I soon showed him my Inquisitor badge and confiscated two of his precious stones in the name of the Empire. I held them in front of my eyes to contemplate the sun. With its burning rays no longer forcing me to deviate my sight, I could examine its beguiling charm.
After so long, I believe I have finally found something we can use to learn more about these dazzling spirits. And to think, that was such an accidental occurrence.
- Johane von Verhagen, Inquisitor of the Thacean Empire