WA Spooktober 2023.2: "Spectre"

A dark tree silhouetted in a flat landscape with a strange nest in the top.

Today I have another post for you from the World Anvil Spooktober Prompts. I'm going through them as they show up, and I'm going to apologise straight up and say this is very scrappy indeed. Today was my biggest teaching day of the week so far, and I came home tired and overwhelmed.

Even having finished the PhD, I'm finding it a struggle to live regular life—working and cooking and living—right now and how the hell did I do all that before, when I was still finishing the thesis? I have no idea.

I also haven't managed to take a photo of the Deck of Worlds prompts, because I only got to this really late and the lighting in here is utterly terrible. I'm not writing conventional stories or conventional World Anvil entries, because that's just not really possible here.

What I ended up doing today was a free-write, which started off with me imagining somebody Amnari wanting to investigate a hypothesis. As I wrote, I began to think of ways this might be relevant to the plot of the Amnar book I'm planning now, and it's given me a few ideas to incorporate something from this into that.

I'm not sure I was able to incorporate all of the Deck of Worlds prompt this time. I wrote it up and then thought, "Oh god, I only got one card in there!" So I went back and crowbarred the rest of them in as best I could. I'm not sure how I feel about the character emerging out of this. I'll leave that to you to decide.

Today's World Anvil Prompt: "Specter" (British English: Spectre)

Deck of Worlds "Worlds of Blight and Shadow" Prompts:

An abyss (region) that is a site of a mysterious disappearance (origin) and has a massive bat colony (attribute). Within the abyss is a nest (landmark), known as the Nest of Scythes (namesake). It is made of bones (attribute) and was made famous by a local ghost story (origin). Currently, a past tragedy is starting to bleeding through to the present (attribute).

Amnapedia Editor's Note: This is a section of a letter from REDACTED to the Guardian Dragonmaster Icaan, which purports to be a rather long-winded request for a dragonmaster to take them up to the clinic site at Reinkäyl. It was received by the Guardian Dragonmaster's assistant on or around the 22nd or the 23rd Ashmuta, 4635 AA.

As the author of the letter notes, attitudes to the idea of speaking to the so-called "spectres" that might "haunt" places of traumatic death are very skeptical at present. To the best of this editor's knowledge, there is no evidence that kata, the enlivening energy of biological forms, retains any stamp of individual personality either before or after death. To suggest otherwise would be to complicate the whole foundation of our medical system and, potentially, raise critical ethical issues.

However, this editor has taken the decision to include the communication as part of the current investigation, as it sheds light on the motivations of REDACTED and possible reasons that might explain their later actions.—24th Ashmuta, 4635 AA Amnapedia Record Update.

Communication begins:

Is it possible to communicate with the spectres that haunt the sites of trauma? This we do not know. All we know, so far, is that any site of extreme trauma, where physical bodies have been broken apart from their kata suddenly, that it seems that this changes the kata—or spirit, or soul, or whatever we might call it—itself is traumatised.

Our understanding of kata is that it is neutral of personality, in that personality is not stamped upon the kata contained within the body. Yet at the same time, it appears that kata cannot easily be dispersed back into the wider background after a traumatic death.

We do not even know what's different about dying in these sudden and awful ways that does this to the kata. Of course, we cannot experiment—that would be wrong, ethically speaking—and therefore we must rely upon reports, of investigations, after the fact. My only previous successful work has been treated with some caution by my fellow researchers as the Abyss known as The Nest of Scythes is of course notorious for the high mortality amongst our warriors and for the size of the nearby bat colony. The presence of a great deal of such kata could well affect any results I produced, as my peer reviewers rightly have pointed out.

For the last several weeks, I have been reading the reports from the investigators of the incident at Reinkäyl. I've been curious about the problem of the spectres that appear after uniquely traumatic events, and so I was curious to see what they might discover with regard to this effect.

Now we know, not only do we have spectres from the victims of the current tragedy, but of a tragedy fifteen years old in the past. I wish to state here that I am only interested in communicating with these spectres for the intention of understanding the nature of kata, its relationship to consciousness, and whether anything of the mortal personality remains after death.

In the context of Reinkäyl, it would also be useful to know whether this kata, in the form of a "spectre", might be able to tell us any details about the cause of death. Ordinarily, I would be extremely suspicious of such a notion. But right now, I have to admit that I, like everyone else who lost a loved one in the explosion at the clinic, is desperate to know how and why these people have been lost.

What we know so far about what happened at Reinkäyl is very limited. In the early hours of the 4th Ashmuta this year (4635 AA for the record), there was an explosion at the medical outreach clinic in the Nas Iscan Northern Territories. The clinic was built close to the settlement of Reinkäyl, outside the Nas Iscan and Amnari official territories. The area is generally used by the nomadic reindeer herders called the Tagluk.

Nas Isca's FTP command was immediately informed as the communication went down. A first response team was sent up and their report back to the FTP command was that a large section of the clinic had been destroyed in what appeared to be an explosion. The explosion had triggered an avalanche and destabilised the area, requiring an immediate evacuation of all survivors and others in the immediate area.

Since then, a formal investigation as to the causes and results of this explosion has been launched. The explosion itself is bad enough; but three days after investigators began their work, a body was found in the remains of the clinic extension wall. Unlike the recent victims, this body had clearly been dead for a long period. The clinic extension had been finished fifteen years prior, which indicated that the body was obviously fifteen years old.

What has complicated the picture even further is that this body is not Amnari. We have no indications of a missing person, no lost kata tracker. The body has been mostly stripped down, but there were suggestions from a surviving section of hair that this person must have been Tagluk. We now know, in addition, that this person has a genetic relative in the Amnari capital of Amin Duum right now.

Damage to the skull suggests that the cause of death may have been murder. At present, this has not been communicated to the Tagluk tribes with whom we have closest contact, but it will become necessary in due course when the body is inevitably returned for a traditional burial. It has become critical that we understand what happened to this individual to explain to their relative and to their own tribe and, hopefully, bring the perpetrator to justice.

As you can imagine, being able to communicate with a spectre such as this might provide us with vital clues as to the reasons for its mysterious presence in the wall. The spectre itself may not know how it died or came to be positioned in such an odd location, but knowing who this was and what their motivations were for entering restricted Amnari territories would provide invaluable information for investigators.

I have had few opportunities to conduct much research in this area. However, I am planning a visit to Reinkäyl in the next few days and would like to place a request for your support for this move. I have informed my Senior Master and this has been given some—admittedly hesitant—approval. Travel to Reinkäyl is difficult at the best of times, and I am hopeful that you, as our Guardian Dragonmaster, would be able to supply me with a dragonmaster and letter of recommendation to the senior investigator.

I have also reached out to your new Second Servant, who I believe to be the Amnari relative and descendant of the victim, but I have not yet received any kind of response. This is why I decided to contact you directly rather than use more conventional channels. I believe that, although my work has largely been treated with skepticism in the community thus far, I might be able to provide valuable assistance to them, should it prove possible to communicate with the kata spectre of this individual.

I remain yours,


[Amnapedia update: As of 22nd Ashmuta, 4635 AA, there has been no further communication with REDACTED and their tracker does not show any activity after reaching Nas Isca. A team has been directed to investigate.]