A wraith is a spirit of purest evil. That’s what the liturgy says. When a vile person who has debased him or herself so much that even the Abyss questions taking them in the afterlife, that’s when you get a wraith. They are nasty and powerful, able to kill a single opponent with almost no effort, and a danger even to a well rounded expeditionary force.
They are also non-corporeal, meaning that they have no physical form, similar to a ghost, but much more malevolent in nature. I remember this very specifically from my studies. The moment I decided I wanted to be a cleric; not just a priest; I began to research everything I could in order to go out and battle evil. Wraiths, after liches, truly terrified me. How horrible must a person have been to become a wraith upon their death. I have a fairly vivid imagination, but I cannot conceive of the level of hatred and self-loathing required here.
Our beliefs of good and evil are skewed by our perceptions and our liturgy, our stories and our fears. As I have proven with the hobgoblins I have met, not all are evil, no more than all humans are evil. I have met all manner of folk and besides the arrogance of wizards (which I think cover large self-esteem issues) the common folk seem to be innately goodish. Not always lawful, but as laws are created by man, sometimes they are not in the best interest of those who are being governed. Again, I know this more from stories, which I realize puts me at a disadvantage for the real world, but even metaphor and stereo-types come from some starting point.
When the wraith appeared my first instinct was to destroy it. After all, pure evil. But with this one, something unheard of occurred. Granted the vile spirit that is a wraith had started life as a normal human, hob, dwarf, halfling or other of the people. There are bits of tales where a parent or lover returns to destroy a wraith and that wraith recognizes them. Can you imagine it? How would it be if your child committed so much evil that they returned as a wraith. Then you had to go forth and conquer them to end their continued reign of terror. Imagine you have managed the fortitude to do what is right despite the pain and grief it has caused and will continue to cause. You confront this spirit and in the moment you prepare to strike, it stops, recoils, recognizes you and for an instant has a moment of remorse. Can you conceive of such a moment, Father?
Now imagine that you are me, and you are faced with this wraith who haunts the lower levels of a fortress from an ancient civilization which fell seventy centuries ago. Envision if you will, said wraith who destroyed with impunity for time beyond rational thought stopped in its mindless hunger and looked at you, focused with a preternatural clarity and stated.
“Merric, we purged the temples as you ordered.”
Bob and I were stunned into inactivity, mesmerized by the condemned soul.
“The Bountiful One’s paladins fought, as you predicted, but they died to a person. The temples burn, my heart.”
It paused there, head turned away, embarrassed at the words, perhaps.
“Blood ran in the rectory. The novices were cut down defending the children, but in the end all fell to the sword.”
There was a gleam at those words, an unholy exaltation that will haunt my dreams.
“We have won as you surmised we would,” the wraith whispered sotto voce. “Your plan was perfect. Jared led those fleeing into the southern passage and collapsed it as you planned. Kendrick did the same in the northern route.”
I could not find my breath. This creature, this vile thing knew me and was reporting as if I had commanded the death of this place. Bob reached out and grasped my arm, whether to stop me from striking or to support me from collapsing I was not sure.
“All were killed?” I asked, my voice rough. The spirit did not notice.
“Seven escaped,” it said, pressing its ghostly hands against its eyes. “You warned me, Merric. It was Kithri, the whore. She killed Abigail, stole the relics of the Bountiful One and fled through the eastern tunnel. We stopped the rest.”
It wailed, a shrieking lament of rage and impudence. For a moment I thought she would attack. For you see, I knew in that instant. This was Abigail. And Abigail had been a lover of Merric. Not me, of course. But the Merric of the first kingdom.
“You did not come for me,” she raved, and impudent fury filled her spectral eyes with the raging fires of the pit. “We all died here, in your name. Mulcahy claimed to see you, but he fell to the paladins. Boris was brought down by a cook with a cleaver. We were your most loyal, we were your cleansing fire. We brought down the pantheon and you let us burn.”
And the clarity was replaced with madness. I know we destroyed her. Bob and I. She should have been too much for us, but there had the power of divine retribution on our side. That and a mace that really, truly hated evil and undead.
My final blow shattered her final hold on this world and she collapsed in a vortex of hatred and pain. We were both wounded, shredded of our very life essence and beleaguered to the point of collapse. The others came to our aid and I woke in a chamber under the sweeping staircase, a dozen skeletal bodies huddled in one corner. One of those had been Abigail, but the fire that had consumed this room removed any way to identify her among the rest.
I could not stop weeping Father. Not for a very long time.