THE WIGHT

In the war with Deadhaus, the Thacean Empire has utilized every resource available to them. Brave men-at-arms, machines of war, sorcery, and pleas to the divine were all employed with varying levels of success, but for every victory there were two defeats. City by city, land by land, the Thaceans were pushed back, driven northward by the ceaseless march of the dead. Routed to their innermost territory, they devised a new strategy in desperation. They would turn the strength of Deadhaus against itself. They would oppose the dead with the dead. At the behest of his Grand Inquisitor, the Emperor called upon the most skilled and learned alchemists of his nation. Together with the Grand Inquisitor’s research, they developed the capacity to create an undead entirely under their control, a construct of interwoven limbs and parts animated by alchemy, a Wight.

The impact on the war was immediate. Wights, like the undead they had been created to face, were tireless. Assembled from multiple cadavers, their variegated bodies could be disassembled and reconstructed to fit the needs of their assignment. A wight sent to the frontlines could be grafted with heavy armor plating to absorb blows intended for the living. If city walls needed defending, a Wight’s arm could be replaced with a gunpowder device that its other arm could fire and reload. So long as the material wasn’t silver, a Wight could be fitted with a myriad of tools, weapons, and apparatus.

When it became apparent that the use of Wights was beginning to turn the war, the Emperor demanded mass production, and soon Wights began to appear on nearly every battlefield. Even when struck down, a Wight could be repaired so long as its core remained intact. But their bodies could not consist entirely of mechanical parts. Some portion of flesh was required to contain the essence of a Wight, for flesh is the housing of the soul, and that was the secret with which the Grand Inquisitor had built them. Through alchemy, he had learned to artificially create the substance from which souls are made, and so the essence of a Wight’s creation became the essence of its undoing.

Without any sign or warning, for reasons unknown, some Wights began to awaken. The essence in the cores that animated them spontaneously gave rise to sentient souls. Whether standing guard, hauling weight, or in the midst of battle, these Wights simply stopped following commands. In some instances, they turned on their masters, tearing them apart. In others, they simply wandered from the battlefield. Some roamed alone, ranging until their limbs failed them, or until they reached the sea and then kept walking. Some stood unmoving, neither reacting to, nor even acknowledging, the Thaceans who came to disassemble them. But a portion of these awakened Wights marched south, and there they found Deadhaus waiting with open arms.

OF WIGHTS – I

Seventeenth of Calefact, in the year 218 after Deadhaus

Another southern fortress was lost, and with it, three hundred men. Deadhaus takes no prisoners. It has no need for them. Even the most loyal Imperial soldier will divulge his secrets without hesitation once he has been raised from the dead. And so these losses are unlike the casualties of any other war. Three hundred men fallen against Deadhaus bolsters their numbers by that very amount, along with any vital information they possessed. That is why it has become Imperial policy that, should a battle seem even slightly lost, officers must retreat immediately. It is why I’ve had to abandon so many to die, because if I did not, even more would die when my mind became an asset of Deadhaus. But the abandonment of leadership all but guarantees defeat where there might have been a chance under any other circumstances. There are no good decisions in this war… there are only desperate, grasping attempts to minimize losses.

The Empire’s borders are receding. Where once we stretched from Thacea to the Silent Sea, now our southernmost territory is Fort Zaestra. How long before the dead are at our very doorstep? And what then? Will we be pressed into Northguard Ridge? Will the very mountains that have protected Thacea for centuries pen us in as the dead surge through the capital? Am I the last Grand Inquisitor of the Thacean Empire? No… no… so long as I draw breath, I will find a way. If the dead are truly unstoppable, then maybe that is the key to their defeat. What I write now would mark me as a heretic if it were discovered… but what if we could turn their strength against them? 

I have been studying Deadhaus for many years, hunting and investigating their many horrors. But there were undead before this mighty house, just as there were empires before my own. And the inevitable conflict between them has been recorded in long-forgotten ruins. And I… I have found something beneath Malorum… a record of a weapon and how to build it… a record of madness. If I understand the translations correctly, I suspect the state of undeath could be induced in cadaverous components. With the proper device in place, constructs of dead flesh could be reanimated and bent to our will… to my will. If I am correct… if I could convince the Emperor to support this experiment, then perhaps there is hope in this war. The gods have failed us against the dead. Our sorceries have failed us, our soldiers. They can only delay the inevitable, just as death itself can only be delayed… but what if I can stop it? Yes… yes, this is the only way. I will make them see. I will begin tonight.

None will suspect my intentions if I should request a few cadavers. It is true to say that they will be used in research. All I need is to demonstrate proof of concept, to show that I can animate dead tissue through alchemy, and then I should gain the support I require, but until then I must move carefully… and quickly. The dead will not wait long before they head north again. They select each target and fall upon it until it is theirs, but they never pursue those that flee. It is as if they care only for their immediate objective, and all else is ignored. Methodically, ceaselessly they drive north. Fort Zaestra will be the next to fall, and by my estimation the attack will come five days from now. I will be there when it does. If I could collect the remains of an undead, convince the commander in such a way that did not raise suspicion, it would advance my research tenfold.

If I should fail… if someone should uncover these recordings after I am gone, know that I did what I had to… for the Empire.

– Alaric von Beller, Grand Inquisitor of the Thacean Empire

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