Having just posted a piece on the Mark of Death, I thought I’d throw this up here. This is a collection of excerpts from a conversation on the WotC Eberron forum. You can find the full thread here; this concerns my thoughts on Erandis and liches. How have you depicted Erandis in you campaign? What’s your opinion on liches?
(DoctorBadWolf ) So, I don’t really get the whole Lich = Hideous corpse thing to begin with. They’re more powerful than vampires, and their magic can’t keep them looking like living people if they want, without illusion magic? I know in Eberron canon is less important, but I’m wondering if it’s actually canon, or just an assumption, that Erandis looks gross.
(EnderXenocide0) I’ve always seen Erandis as being deceptively beautiful. Perhaps most liches become so monstrously disfigured by the sheer weight of the negative energy they use to convert themselves into undead, but maybe the Mark of Death allowed Erandis to be transformed without her body undergoing the cosmetic changes. I like the idea of her body having this sense of timelessness to it, as though a switch was flipped one moment and she just stopped changing.
Obviously, this is one of those “Do what you want in your own campaign” things. With that said, I believe in the ugly lich for a number of reasons.
Undead are infused with negative energy. That’s “anti-life”, fundamentally. Coming into contact with them tends to cause physical harm to living creatures, as your life force gets drained, you get paralyzed, etc. In 4E, just being close to a lich can hurt a living creature. This backs up the assertion of the Undying Court is that merely bringing this energy into Eberron fundamentally hurts the life-force of the world itself. So, point one: this is an extremely unnatural thing.
Liches are efficient. A lich doesn’t need blood to survive. It is sustained purely by Mabar and magic. The organs of its body, from skin to eyes, are extraneous. I’ll note that liches have darkvision; in my opinion this isn’t because their eyesight has improved, it’s because they don’t have eyes anymore. Their souls are anchored to the world through their phylactery, and a body is thrown together, but it’s just a shell for the soul and has no need for any of the pleasantries.
So what about vampires? If liches are ugly, why do vampires get to be pretty? Because vampires aren’t as efficient as liches. They require blood to survive. Which in turn means they need a circulatory system. They need to thrive as predators among the living which means that they HAVE to be able to pass as living, so they need skin and such. A vampire has specific anatomical weaknesses: it can be killed with a stake through the heart or decapitation (well, if you play with such rules). A lich can’t. It has fully transcended these and is immortal unless you find the phylactery. The body is just a shell for the soul, bound together by that unnatural negative energy.
Deathless are ugly, too. The Undying are sustained by positive energy, and yet they are also ugly. Because they’re done with their bodies. Unlike the vampire, none of it is necessary anymore. It’s why you have Aereni artificially dessicating themselves… because the flesh is temporary. The dissolution of the body is nothing to fear if you preserve and perfect the soul.
Having said all of that, I have Erandis use magic to APPEAR attractive. And she’s got access to very, very powerful magic. When she needs to fool people, she can and she does. If you ever see her ugly face, things are likely going to be very bad for you. But I still like the fact that underneath it she’s hideous, for a few more reasons.
She’s a tragic figure. She didn’t ask for her fate. Even among the Aereni, most say to enjoy life before becoming deathless. To me, emphasizing that her current state ISN’T pleasant or serene makes her all the more tragic. Having her dragonmark be a withered remnant of its true self – having her stare at it in the mirror, knowing what it should be – is what will drive you mad. I could even see her creating a persistant spell and trying to forget her appearance, because she’s NOT as serene about things as the deathless are.
It’s creepier. When her appearance is a glamour hiding something hideous – something you can imagine but can’t see – to me, that makes her a much more intriguing and disturbing character.
WITH THAT SAID: That doesn’t mean I endorse the image/figure we’ve seen of her. I play her as less physically imposing. But still very, very dead.
But as I said… that’s my Erandis.
( DoctorBadWolf) I see the Vols being less…base and ugly about their approach to undeath than the standard necromancer. I could see Vol necromancers raising skeleton knights in a way that their bones look like onyx or emerald or ruby, or covered in obscure runes, etc. Basically, I expect the sort of ritualism and artistry that comes with religious devotion to change the look and feel of their undead, to some extent.
I’m all for being artistic with the bones. My point was simply that I’m fine with undead who are purely self-sustained (liches, death knights) being desiccated/bare-bones as opposed to the full-flesh pretty vampire. To my mind, this is actually one of the things that makes the vampire weaker than the lich: it still NEEDS the body more.
I’m also a big fan of the ornate deathmask concealing the face; as you may recall, the death-mask is the holy symbol of the Undying Court. We could get into a much longer discussion about the symbolism of that mask, but that’s not about Erandis.
(DoctorBadWolf) I think that a Lich of her power could also simply choose what her body looks like, since it is just a…shell to house her soul and giver her being focus and form. This would be similar to the illusion magic, except that she’s physically altering her body to look a certain way. Ultimately, it’s a lie, but it’s one you can poke with a stick without revealing, as it were. Also, for some reason I have this image of her dragonmark sometimes writhing on her skin, or glowing, or other strange effects, like it has a will, and is…imprisoned by her undeath.
Perhaps it’s difficult for her to keep her body in the form she remembers, as the centuries pass and her memory gets less distinct. Perhaps she no longer looks at all natural, but more like the image of an adolescant elf from the imagination of someone who has never seen one, with too high cheek bones and eyes too large, etc. Another creepy and tragic option.
Sure; if you’re using a 3.5 variant, that’s a second level spell (alter self as opposed to disguise self). A trivial action for a wizard of her power. So there’s no question that it’s within her power to look however she wants to look. The question is what her base form looks like, and the point I’ll make here is that she didn’t do this to herself. It’s not her spell. Her parents turned her into a lich while she was most likely just a fledgling wizard. This is why I hold to the idea that she doesn’t know where her phylactery is – because it’s not HER phylactery, it’s something her parents designed to protect her. In a sense, she is a prisoner in her own undeath. Hence, I like the idea that she can hide from her natural form using the magic she’s learned; but her default state is one that’s forced upon her. It’s as perfect as undeath can be. It’s immortality without any need for blood or anything else. But it remains undeath: a cold life without the physical joys that come with our physical weaknesses. Again, it’s why the Aereni will raise someone from the dead as opposed to making them Deathless if they die too young; they haven’t had time to experience all that true life has to offer.
Now again, I’m all for the artistic shaping of the lich form – bones of ebony, runic engravings, and so on. I just like that form being clearly dead because that’s what it is – a soul torn from the natural cycle of life and death and kept in place by the darkest of forces.
My final point here is that I want a clear distinction between deathless and undead. Per 4E, the Mabaran forces are so dangerous that if the lich “lifts its reactor shielding” it can kill anyone who comes within 25 feet. The line of Vol maintained that their Mabaran techniques were superior to those of the Undying Court because they ensured that the undead could survive on its own – that it could take what it needed from the world, while the Deathless rely on the energy being given. As such, I don’t see the fundamental principle of Vol’s line being “serenity”; I see it as grim determination to battle death to the end.
Changing topics, bear in mind that the modern religion of the Blood of Vol is not the faith of the line of Vol. It is a modern adaptation that has gone in a different direction. The line of Vol was content with lichdom as a form of immortality. For the modern faith, undeath is not the answer; it’s a temporary measure. The goal of the modern faith is to unlock the divine spark of the soul and to acheive personal divinity as a living being… and the belief is that once you’re undead, this spark is lost. This is backed up by the fact that Erandis can’t use her mark. Essentially, she’s immortal yet forever denied her true potential. The goal of the Seeker is to get the potential; those who become undead are in fact martyrs.
(Edymnion) I would question Erandis not knowing what her own phylactery was for that very reason. If her body is destroyed, as per being a lich she’ll always reform from the corpse closest to her phylactery. I would assume this has happened to her several times over the millenia, and that she’s smart enough to realize that she keeps waking back up in the same general area that she’d start testing it. Laying out some gentle repose bodies and waiting for the next time and seeing which one she wakes up in next. Repeat until she finds it, if she didn’t already know where it was. After all, she’s very clever, and she’s been a lich for a very long time, its not like she’s got that much else to do.
My point is EXACTLY that. If she follows the standard rules and reforms in the immediate area of her phylactery, then she’ll know where it is. And if she can figure it out, so can the Deathguard or her enemies in Argonnessen. Most liches transform themselves. They’re already powerful wizards. Erandis wasn’t; it was a last ditch effort by a powerful wizard determined to keep her in existence at all costs. Thus, my assertion is that she DOESN’T reform near her phylactery. She reforms in a random, unpredictable location. Thus, she was probably killed a half-dozen times in the first century after her rebirth, before she grew in power and found a safe haven. But each time, she appeared somewhere new and it took her enemies time to track her down again. And over time she became that powerful wizard.
There’s nothing on it one way or the other in canon sources. It’s simply my personal opinion based on the fact that her state is something that was done to her instead of by her, and done with the determination to preserve her against extremely powerful and brilliant enemies.