The Undead are a terrifying force, but couldn't quite be called a faction, for they do not think like living beings. Created from the calamitous betrayal that ended the great war thousands of years ago, they merely wander, hungry and aimless. Forever.
When the war between Merlin and Morgana was moving towards its end, things looked bleak. No clever scheme or wily trick could change the fact that, ultimately, Merlin was going to lose. Morgana held open the hellgates, and demons poured into Albion in an unstoppable torrent. For each demon destroyed, another three were ready to take its place. Even worse, Merlin could see that the gates were expanding, and that soon, the great demon lords themselves would be able to climb through to Albion.
Rather than fight the demons directly, Merlin planned to attack the gates and reverse Morgana’s magic. To do this, he needed a ritual of incredible power, and to fuel this ritual he needed two things: a battery of magical energy and the sacrifice of blood. A great deal of blood. Gathering his acolytes together, Merlin instructed them on what must be done, being careful not to mention that in carrying out the ritual, they would be damning their very souls.
The acolytes traveled to the site of the final battle where Arthur led his knights against Morgana’s champions. Both sides had their allies; the Keepers aiding Arthur while the Demons bolstered Morgana’s forces. Though Merlin’s acolytes were skilled, their power alone was nowhere near enough. The ritual required the destruction of a mighty artifact: Excalibur, the sword of kings. Excalibur was a symbol of power and of domination. The sword was also Morgana’s greatest achievement, imbued with her own energies and, it is theorised, by demonic essence as well. By breaking it, Merlin was symbolically breaking her, as well as releasing a vast quantity of magical energy back into Albion.
If Merlin felt any guilt over betraying Arthur to do it, it was not enough to stop him.
When the sword shattered, its energy was captured by the ritual and redirected to terrible purpose. A great rift opened up and chill mists poured out, blanketing the battlefield and swiftly spreading over the land. The exact nature of the mist is unknown. Some theorise the rift opened onto the land of the dead; others that the mist was Merlin’s transformed soul; still others that a dragon stirred deep beneath the earth and cast its breath out into the world. What is known is that everyone who fought in the battle died that day, and that the mists brought death to thousands more as they spread, hunting out every demon and every trace of infernal power in Albion.
When it was done, the hellgates had closed, Morgana was banished... and Merlin? Of Merlin, there was no sign. While most of Albion recovered under the watchful eye of the Keepers, the ritual site and surrounding battlefields did not. A kind of sickness hung in these places, and thick mists clung to the barren earth. People and animals alike kept their distance, knowing in their hearts that nothing good remained there.
When the mists retreated they revealed that the ritual had not just taken the souls of those present at its casting, it had shattered them, leaving them neither fully in the bodies they had once inhabited nor fully out of them. Strange cries carried on the wind as old bones moved once more, creaking inside rusty armor. Elsewhere, darker shades took wing, driven by a hunger that could never be sated.
The Undead remain an uncomfortable reminder of Albion’s past. They can often be avoided, but are too dangerous to be ignored, and too terrible to forget.
A broad group made up of those killed during the war. They include Arthur’s knights and a number of unfortunates who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some still believe they are fighting a war and battle each other endlessly, pointlessly, while others shuffle without purpose. The most pathetic do not move at all until something with a pulse gets too close.
Most Skeletons are driven by a hatred of all things living and will attack them on sight. However, there are rare stories about Undead that retain some semblance of their former selves. The stories disagree about these wretches, some describing them as tragic figures seeking salvation, others painting creatures driven by hate, who try and lure the sympathetic to their doom.
These patches of living darkness are often found in catacombs where Skeletons dwell. They are interested in one thing and one thing only: life. When they find it, they steal it, drinking mindlessly until the soul is consumed. They cluster around powerful undead, and in large numbers their movements can become excitable, even hypnotic.
Merlin’s Acolytes were at the heart of the ritual when its power was unleashed, their bodies exposed to dread powers, their minds tortured, their souls repurposed. Each was transformed into a Harvester, a walking gateway to the plane of the dead. The Harvesters are incredibly dangerous, not only for their own power but because of the magnetic quality they have for lesser undead.
A touch from them can be fatal, and to stand in their presence for too long can cause premature ageing and infertility, or bring about such intense misery that victims have been known to sit down on the spot and refuse to stand again. Fortunately, they tend to only be found in Albion’s deepest depths. Whether their hatred of us comes from their undead nature or some residing bitterness of their betrayal by Merlin is, in many ways, academic. If you see one, do not hesitate to run!