Third Kingdom
City/ Ruin
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Comments: 15
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Rating: 4.5
Condition: Normal
ID: 4710


January 2, 2008, 9:46 pm

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Cheka Man

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The Unclean Ones


The dead, when buried without last rites, often find it impossible to rest easy…

Full Description

Most faiths speak of the final treatment of the dead; rituals that must be followed to assure that the souls will pass on to the afterlife, and the bodies will rest quietly in the grave for nature to reclaim. Often there are dire warnings about what might result if these religious rules are not followed; often the warnings alone prove enough, and the dead do indeed rest easily.

Sometimes even the simplest parts of ritual are not given to the dead, however; a drunken pauper too poor, too reviled to have even a brief prayer said over him by the priests who look after the dead before being buried in an unmarked grave, naked and without even a lone copper coin to pay his fare across the darkened river into the twilight realms. It is from these poor souls that the Unclean Ones arise.

Physically, the Unclean Ones are difficult to tell apart from the creations of a necromancer; their bodies are often rotted, with putrefied flesh clinging to bone and a terrible light glimmering where once there were eyes. Often the only outward sign that such a thing is one of the Unclean is that it lacks even the rotting rags that zombies wear; no funeral garb adorns these pathetic creatures as they shuffle awkwardly along. They exude a disquieting odor, the stink of rot mixed with the scent of the grave-earth they clawed free from, and often they produce an unwholesome wheezing sound as they unthinkingly try to draw breath as if still alive.

An Unclean One, once arisen, seeks but one goal: the items it needs to pass truly into the afterlife. While this does not always lead to violence - wise gravetenders keep a spare set of funeral clothes and a few spare coins in the pauper’s corner - an Unclean One will not hesitate to attack someone to claim their clothes as funeral garb, or their coins as fare for the toll to cross the river into the afterlife. If freely given these things, the shambling thing will shuffle away to the grave from which it arose, draping the clothing as best it can while it burrows back to the place it belongs. If resisted, however, the Unclean One fights desperately, as without the things it seeks only oblivion awaits it should it fall.

The Unclean Ones are perhaps among the most pathetic forms of the undead, and any priest with a decent degree of training can realize what the thing seeks; only the most heartless would deny the poor thing what it needs, even among the servants of the dark gods, for the Unclean Ones cannot be made to serve.

Additional Information
-The Unclean Ones are not a form of undead that can be commanded or repelled by divine means; their soul inhabits the rotting body and serves to animate it, rather than any link to an external power.
-If given what they seek, the Unclean Ones will return to their grave as swiftly as possible to continue on into the afterlife.
-The Unclean Ones will attack the living if they happen to be in direct possession of whatever the creature seeks, and unwilling to relinquish it to the creature; their fingerbones, often broken into jagged points from clawing to the surface, can be quite dangerous.
-Destroying an Unclean One condemns the soul therein to oblivion, which most faiths are likely to frown upon.
-The Unclean Ones only arise when a corpse is buried without any traces of an attempt at last rites; often this means being buried without clothing and without coins, but depending on the religion it could mean any number of things. Inevitably, they seek the simplest things which they were denied.

Plot Hooks

-Unclean Ones are appearing with distressing frequency from a city’s graveyard. Someone working there is stripping everything from the dead before burial, preventing them from resting.
-A follower of an obscure faith, buried in accordance with local traditions, has arisen as an Unclean One. What does it seek in order to be able to rest? How much damage will it cause in the seeking?
-The PCs have recently had to inter a loved one or perhaps a member of their party, and ensured that they were buried properly. Why, then, has an Unclean One bearing the recently departed’s features arisen? Is it truly an Unclean One, or is something more malevolent afoot?
-One of the items required for burial is a crystal disc etched with a holy symbol, to be traded to the guards of the afterlife in exhcange for passage. Unfortunately, the only person who could etch the discs was just buried with the last of their stock. Someone needs to find a supply of the discs to last until another crystal-etcher can be found and hired.

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Comments ( 15 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
January 2, 2008, 21:55
An Undead that I feel sorry for.I like the graveyard plot with someone robbing the dead bodies.
Voted Dozus
January 2, 2008, 22:34
Great concept. Reminds me of ancient Greek rites: the dead had to be buried with coins over their eyes to pay the boatman on the River Styx. Without the money, they spend their afterlife as phantoms lamenting their improper burial. Sophocles' tragedy "Antigone" is based partly on the whole concept. Adding a level of physicality to it - literally having the dead rise from the grave demanding their proper rites - is an excellent addition.
January 2, 2008, 22:55
That particular bit of mythology was, indeed, a major inspiration for this; and I have a weird fondness for devising strange and oddball undead, so it was inevitable that this would happen sooner or later.

The physicality results from a random late-night thought when I was wandering by the Remaking the Undead codex - undead are almost invariably thing of fear and death and the like; yet I've read tales where there are undead who you can't really help but pity. So I applied the latter to the former and we get the Unclean Ones.
Voted EchoMirage
January 3, 2008, 4:11
Echo likes.
For a more dangerous twist - the mightier the prson was in life, the greater the anger at an improper burial. A hero's corpse could prove to be a rather tenacious Unclean One, pulling himself together after 'death' over and over again.
January 4, 2008, 0:29
Dangerous in a fashion, yes. A powerful soul might well keep pulling the body together rather than fall to oblivion easily, but aside from the jagged fingerbones the Unclean Ones aren't all that hazardous, really. If you see them limping about, it's more of a sign that someone isn't doing things properly when burying the dead than anything else; given what they seek, they hurry back to their grave as quickly as they can.
Voted Stephie
January 3, 2008, 9:15
I really enjoy these types of topics. It's nice detail on an old creature. Good job!
January 4, 2008, 0:26
A few creatures, really. On the one hand, you have the sad state of the zombie, a rotting thing dragging itself back from the grave, usually at the behest of someone or something else; then you have the shades which stood on the riverside, lamenting that they had no coin to pay the toll across to the afterlife. Mix them together one way and you get a ghost terrorizing the living. Mix them another way, and you get the Unclean Ones...
Voted manfred
January 3, 2008, 17:33
In some corners of the world, a graverobber that caused an Unclean One to rise, will be punished by being exposed to the creature. If that seems too cruel, just imagine that it was your family, that walked in unrest after death... and it is justice after all.


I like them. They have this almost silly touch, that is very sad in the end. Now I only have to reconsider the burial customs of my world again. :|
January 4, 2008, 0:18
It seems like a fair bit of justice, to me; the trick would be keeping the Unclean One under control while the graverobber is caught and brought in; not to mention that a wily graverobber could easily divest themselves of whatever the Unclean One seeks and get away unharmed, or if a fair combatant could defeat it and condemn the soul therein to oblivion. Of course, you could always tie the thief down...

I'm glad you like them; too often I see the undead as being nothing more than monsters to fight, so the Unclean Ones are an inversion of it - to be pitied, and helped to their final rest, rather than fought and destroyed. They only rise up because they can't pass on without their funerary rites, after all... And if given them, they gladly return to their resting place once and for all.
Voted Maggot
January 5, 2008, 4:25
The Citadel is THE place when it comes to pioneering ever more innovative forms of the undead. This is indeed a beautiful piece. Would an Unclean One be able to accuse the one that denied it rest in a court of law? I can envisage the existence of some kind of religious order that dedicates itself to reaching out to these beings and finding out the identity of the the ones that conducted their improper burials.
January 5, 2008, 7:50
I personally feel that the Unclean Ones wouldn't be 'aware' enough to do something as complex as accusing in a court of law, as the entire animating essence is the soul, without the benefit of any of the natural lifeforce of the body. However, I could easily see a religious order in a large city rife with graverobbers and the like that has some divine magic to speak with the Unclean Ones to determine who was guilty and bring them to justice.
Voted MoonHunter
January 7, 2008, 0:09
I do like this submissions. It is the sort of Ghost/undead thing that comes across the world that is not a "monster" but a puzzle to solve. And yes you could bash this problem away, but it has easier ways to solve the issue.
January 7, 2008, 7:39
That's pretty much exactly the way I wanted to make it. It's certainly good to know I've succeeded.
Voted valadaar
August 26, 2008, 12:21
Good one Kassil - I like this take on undead!
August 27, 2008, 3:41
Thanks. I enjoy messing with the notions behind the undead, really.

Even in settings where they technically can't exist as they would normally be presented. I have something in the works for the Steampunk quest coming up, which will fit into Kuramen despite the only True Undead being the Hollow Ones.

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