Friday, August 23, 2013

In the Vanguard - The Cauldron-born

Creatures who have a semblance of life beyond the grave were only legends before the coming of the Morrigan to Cairn Kainen. The Witch brought an artifact with her that had power over death itself; a dreaded item known as the Dark Cauldron. Once a dead body was placed into the cauldron, it rose again as an undead being; a cruel parody of the life it once held. These beings were known as the cauldron-born. They left behind all semblance of their former lives and existed only as slaves to the Morrigan’s will. Powered by the cauldron and guided by the Morrigan’s necromantic witchcraft, uncountable numbers of cauldron-born were created during the conquest of Morden. Since the fall of the Alliance, the Morrigan’s task has been less urgent, and she has vastly slowed the pace of cauldron-born production.

A significant majority of cauldron-born emerge as shambling zombie-like figures; horrors made of rotting flesh or, occasionally, skeletal beings of bone and gristle. The ungainly cauldron-born are nearly mindless creatures, possessing only the most basic cunning. A few of these primitives wear armor or awkwardly wield weapons, but they are the exception rather than the rule. These most basic of cauldron-born created the basis for much of the Witch armies during the conquest of Morden. The Witches and even some of their favored banes retain large numbers of such cauldron-born as servants.

From time to time, the Morrigan guides the cauldron to produce more powerful and unusual forms of undead. Some of these more complex creations are corporeal like the rest, such as the Grave Knights. Others take on more spectral, ghostly forms, such as the Butcher Spirits. These rarer and more powerful cauldron-born serve as leaders to command and guide others of their kind in battle.

All cauldron-born have certain characteristics in common. As they are already dead, they have no need to breathe, eat, or sleep. They can labor unceasingly, although most cauldron-born are so limited in intellect that they are good only for the most basic of tasks. Animals instinctively fear and hate the cauldron-born, and it is not uncommon for wolves, bears, or other predators to launch savage attacks at any cauldron-born that they find. Even some of the monstrous creatures of the mountains have been known to destroy cauldron-born above all others, for even they recognize that the undead simply should not be.

The Enochian faith sees bringing the dead back to life as something truly vile and unnatural. Cauldron-born are amongst the most loathed minions of the Witches, partly because they are quite effective at keeping smaller villages and towns in line. Few farmers are willing to raise weapons against a creature that resembles neighbors and loved ones, even when the black-robed Enochian friars exhort that the living dead are naught but empty, soulless shells.

Because of their resemblance to cauldron-born, Revenants pose a difficult challenge to the faithful. The Enochians grudgingly accept Revenants into the Order of the Penitent—this is most evident in the current head of the Order, Victor Von Drake. However, most Enochians are very uncomfortable with this compromise. Few Revenants are given any modicum of trust or respect due to their resemblance to the cauldron-born.

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