Endless Blue – Week 40 – The Resurrectionists: Tailors of the Fabric that is Flesh   6 comments

Sociology

Resurrectionists — Tailors of the Fabric that is Flesh

Purveyors of the dead, dealers in dark magicks.  These are what the populace would call necromancers, dabblers in the animation of corpses.  But those that seek knowledge of the dead prefer the more neutral title: Resurrectionists.  Despite the conjured image of twisted souls perverting the sanctity of departed love ones to serve out some abstract nefarious goal, the Resurrectionists actually employ their misunderstood art for the betterment of the water world as a whole.  One part caring healer of the sick, another part environmentally conscious recycler, and a final part questor for eternal life, the Resurrectionists see themselves as the answer to the Known Worlds current problems.

Anatomy of an Anatomist

The beginning of the Resurrectionist movement lay partially with the creation of the scientific method of medicine.  To better understand how to combat infirmity and impairment, a healer must understand the underlying principles of biology.  Resorting to battlefield chirurgy can only reveal so much, with the mangled flesh and expended lives strewn across the waters like so much chum.  What few specimens were not scavenged by wildlife or ravaged by saltwater were hardly the best material from which to learn the secrets of how the piscean body works.  They needed better cadavers to examine, fresher bodies to dissect, in order to delve into the mystery of biology.

They turned to the packbreeders of Elqua, asking for the bodies of their expired warbeasts for anatomical research.  In exchange, the Resurrectionists shared insights with the donors to better breed their stock.  This arrangement worked well for both parties, and the knowledge of biology was furthered by fathoms in a reconnaissance of discovery.  But just as the small window of opportunity on the battlefield were mined of all their secrets, so too did the dissection of fauna eventually peter out of insight.  The Resurrectionsists had to face the truth they wished to avoid — they needed intact, practically fresh piscean bodies.

The integrity of the dead is sacrosanct in nearly all Elquan cultures, and the rites that must be observed to properly ensure the passing of the dead are strict.  Foremost among them is the taboo against desecrating the body.  All dead are to be weighted and consigned to the depths, to sink further and further into the darkness below to become one with the Source.  Even the other religions such as Olyhydranism and Pantheon worship still command their schools to send their dead to the center of the globe.  The mere thought that the body of a loved one would not be weighted and sunk, thus forever barred from returning to their Creator, horrifies the piscean races.  But this tradition of burial is essentially throwing away perfectly good research material to a Resurrectionist.  It was such a loss each and every time blind superstition overrides the potential medical discovery that the Resurrectionists made a desperate move…  They began to clandestinely pay for bodies.

It was a shameful but unavoidable decision.  It had to be done, and to this day the Resurrectionists pay the unscrupulous and nonspiritual to “rescue” weighted bodies for later experimentation.  Delivery of the bodies had to be in secret, with utter discretion and no questions asked.  So long as the body thieves kept quiet about their clientele, the Resurrectionists asked no questions of how or where the bodies were collected.  With this unspoken pact in place, it was not long before the grave robbers began to offer “dead contracts”.  Targeted at the desperate and poor, dead contracts were a formal if illegal agreement that the signer would receive payment now, interest free until the day he dies; at which point, the body of the deceased then becomes the property of the signor.  This trafficking of yet-to-be-dead bodies has not gone unnoticed by the authorities, but they can do little about it when the victims are too afraid of the body thieves to come forward.

As this financial arrangement became more and more lucrative, the Resurrectionists improved their healing skills and began to make a name for themselves.  This led to the formation of the guild known as the College of Doctors, established as an organization that garnered the fame from their successful medicine that could never be achieved under the banner of the Resurrectionists.  The organization has grown, diversified, and spread across the Known World.  So large is the organization now that most have no clue of the group’s less than ethical beginnings and newly inducted members see it as the idealistic philosophy that the Resurrectionists pretend to be.

Pragmatism vs. Atheism

There is a confusion in the minds of the less metropolitan that the Resurrectionists and the Godless are the same philosophical movement.  This is simply not true.  Granted, Resurrectionist  share much in common with their atheistic counterparts, but the two movements have sharp distinctions.  The Godless espouse that the gods are false, while the Resurrectionists assert that the dead have no need to be revered.  Resurrectionists believe that once the body dies, the animus vitae — the force of life — is gone and what is left behind is so much scale and bone.  Whether the force of life simply dissipates or moves on to join with a creator is only of ancillary concern to these animists.  In contrast, Godless do not believe there is a Source or any other creator that collects souls, but life is still precious for the simple fact that it is the only thing in the universe that fights entropy.

Resurrectionists are not evil, and do not view what they do as an abomination against nature.  They are pragmatic, rationalizing that the departed have left this world behind. With their mortal shell cast aside as useless, there is not moral ambiguity in others using it as a natural resource.  It is little different than the piscean use of aquatic flora and fauna as food — there is not cruel intention in the consumption, just the natural balance of life taking succor from the waters around it.  They would no more blink an eye at using the remains of a piscean as a miner has digging ore from the seabed or a culinist harvesting seaweed from the kelp fields.  It is simply a matter of pragmatism, using what exists as the tools of survival.  Societal mores make their activities taboo, but ethically it is no more antithetical to life as cutting coral for construction of shelters.

The Dead that Swim Once More

Many secrets owe their discovery to the questionable endeavors of the Resurrectionists.  They have contributed to more medical innovation than all other physical arts combined, and those breakthroughs have brought results that would have been declared miracles in earlier ages.  Indeed, it is their study of nature that gave them the ultimate lore — the ability to make the dead move.

This unique talent traces its origins back to the earliest piscean archeologists whom took a second look at the strange formations in the rock bed.  Once simply regarded as an odd form of pareidolia, it was these early proto-Resurrectionists that realized the stone were actually fossils, petrified remains of living creatures that swam the oceans of Elqua epochs in the past.  They began to excavate these stony bones with an obsessive determination that their kinds still suffers under to this day, collecting the parts, arranging them in various orders as they postulated skeletal arrangement and musculature.  With the advent of Seamus Lorwynn’s theory of evolution, they postulated the biology of the past to have parallels in the past, and used the morphology of modern sea monsters as a guide to model the prehistoric creatures against.  Ligaments, muscles, organs, flesh…  all masterfully plotted out in the minds of these imaginative and intuitive individuals so clearly and concisely they could practically make them move as they had when they were alive.  One day, they actually accomplished it, and the first living dead, or golem, was created.

The undead that Resurrectionists animate have more in common with puppets than the unliving, and a distinction must be made between the unliving that Resurrectionists create and the undead that seep down from the Vastness.  The former are vile aberrations of life, fueled by some unquenchable fury to destroy the faintest trace of animus vitae.  The latter are mere animated slabs of meat, muscle tissue given inertia through memory.  These undead are in actuality golems made of flesh and bone, stone and scale.

The first golems were primitive things, made of fossilized bones and clay flesh, lashed together with seaweed and hide, enshrouding a tiny flicker of animus vitae.  They possessed no grace, no beauty — they were as ugly in sight as they were in function.  Those primitive attempts at bringing to life what was lifeless were things of horror and revilement.  It is no wonder that even today the Resurrectionists must keep their natures hidden from the light of day.

As techniques were refined, the most common form of golem was and still is the homunculus.  Small approximations of the piscean form, they look more like marionettes that living flesh.  But they were the first of the living dead that were imbued with intelligence, albeit rudimentary.  From those lowly beginnings, the Resurrectionists sought greater and greater achievements in the art of reanimation, growing in size and breadth and reach with each passing year.  Word of their discoveries have come under scrutiny of local lords, even the racial governments have looked closely at the potential for “rejuvenating soldiers” that reanimation promises.  Images of highly skilled and utterly loyal Royal Medic Corps being assigned to the regiments of countries’ navies, attending to any of the wounded that were beyond saving, applying their craft there on the battlefield.  The details of what those medics would actually be performing are usually glossed over, but it takes little imagination to realize the result would be the cannibalization of the terminally wounded into cobbled together yet functioning soldiers.  The admirals in charge cling to visions that the worst of such behavior would be relegated to the fallen warbeasts of their forces, and are willingly turning a blind eye to the repugnance of the truth.

And with the borders becoming ever so much more restrictive, the conscription of Resurrectionists into the territory wars may be nearer than anyone realizes.

The Paragon Cynosure

Practitioners of alchemy have their Philosopher’s Stone; the faithful have their Holy Grails.  There is an equal ultimate achievement among the Resurrectionists, sought as zealously as the Grail and as greedily as the Stone.  This cynosure of all Resurrectionists is nothing less that the resurrection of an extinct species.  Not the paltry animation of golems, but the restoration of the animus vitae in a species that has long ago gone extinct.  Treatises through the generations have posited on what that would mean, ethically, morally, spiritually, but most modern practitioners of reanimation begrudgingly agree that the paragon cynosure, the ultimate expression of resurrection, is to bring back a dead intelligent race.  Nothing else fits the bill better than the mysterious and infamous Icht.

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