Friday, October 31, 2008

Shades of Tolkien

Setting the Stage
One might recall that in the Lord of the Rings tale, undead creatures stalked the lands of Middle Earth with some regularity.
* The nine Ringwraiths were kings from ages past ensnared and turned to shadow by the power of the One Ring.
* Barrow wights chanted pagan songs of despair in their ancient burial mounds.
* The Dead Marshes housed the restless spirits of mighty warriors slain long ago.
* The Paths of the Dead beyond the Dark Door led to the realm of the dread men of Dunharrow.

It does not seem unreasonable to presume that not all the sleepless spirits were laid to rest at the close of the Third Age. That being the case, the newly returned king would have had to deal with whatever remnant of undead remained. And if any of those undead had ever organized and begun to lobby for democratic reform...


Full Moon Rising: UDLU Haunts Crown for Favor
Eve of the Holy Ones

The specter Fingal Gray is on the prowl. “We seek equal rights for all the kingdom’s citizens, living and undead.”

The revivified former clerk of courts is not alone in his quest. He represents legions of like-minded visitants of the UnDead Litigant's Union (UDLU) who have converged on the tombs, ruins, and outskirts of the kingdom’s capital to petition the crown for equal consideration in the realm’s decrees and in its courts.

“A monarch’s chief duty is to wisely govern all his subjects,” the UDLU spokesman says. “Why should those vassals who were loyal to the crown in life be arbitrarily excluded from their sovereign’s attentions merely because they have passed to an alternate form of consciousness? We ask not for privilege, but simply to be recognized as we are.”

To the neophyte this might seem like just a bit of legal wrangling – an antagonistic assumpsit that carries with it shades of sinister things to come.

“This is no ignis fatuus,” insists Gray. “We are in earnest. The law of the land applies to persons born or naturalized. It says nothing about such persons losing their right to the king’s ministrations simply because they've given up the ghost.”

The Union’s pleader might have a case, if not a precedent. According to Sir Neville Hoddypeake, the crown’s ombudsman, “His Majesty is sagely considering the best manner in which to respond to the pleas of Master Fingal. Certainly our wise and generous king will take the past service of the petitioners into account, and render a prudent and providential ruling. Until then, everyone is reminded to lock their doors at night and remain calm.”

Officially recognizing the legal status of the once-living would take some getting used to, however. Will Hayseed of Galloping Green remembers having to bury his grandfather twice after an itinerant necromancer exhumed and animated his forebear. “It took all the Autumn surplus to hire enough help to track the gaffer down and get him back in the grave. Iffin’ it happened again, why, I rekkin we’d have to sell off one of my brothers as an indentured servant to pay the cost.”

Resistance is likely to be even more articulate from the capital’s Ordinary. No less a figure that Patriarch Tassit himself observed, “Evil has no rights, just as error has no rights. The Union’s claim proposes that incarnate evil is a viable entity, existing in its own right, whereas numerous Holy Docents have incontrovertibly demonstrated that evil is in truth a corruption of what is good. How can what is inferior be given the same regard as what is superior? We are confident that the courts will concede the necessity of this axiom for any law to exist, not just the one being discussed today. The implications of a reversal are too nightmarish to contemplate.”

Another stumbling block is that the walking dead themselves are shambling along more than marching in step. “The liches have not deigned to answer our summons,” Gray concedes. “And the vampires will sign on only if the contract is drawn up in blood. The shadows, poltergeists, and revenants do not entirely appreciate the implications of what we’re trying to do, but they’ve thrown their lot in with us on the understanding that their access to graveyards and nocturnal city streets will have fewer restrictions.”

Obstacles notwithstanding, the UDLU is guardedly optimistic. “With time not working to our detriment, we can afford to wait quite a while before chanting our victory dirge,” says Gray. “And we’re mounting a multi-faceted campaign. For example, specters like myself, and the banshees, wights, and wraiths – a very powerful contingent – are entirely behind this offensive. Also, our numbers grow nightly, thanks to the sleepless conscription efforts of our ghouls and ghasts.

“We’ve also been busy in the academic realm,” continues the sepulchral spokesman. “A treatise scribed in human flesh and impaled on a local university’s front gate articulates how the term ‘monster’ to describe one’s ancestors and former friends is a pejorative term, one that contributes to the mindless destruction of our constituency in catacombs, cemeteries, and abandoned houses throughout the kingdom.

“Finally,” Gray concludes, “we are agitating for the formal acknowledgement of our non-sentient members, particularly zombies and animated skeletons. Though they do not think or speak, they still fulfill a crucial role in netherworld society. Citing the precedent of the recent Dead Scott case, it is our position not that they are capable of autonomous voting, but that their numbers should be tallied in the household of their animators.”

How this matter will turn out not even the Mystic’s Guild has attempted to augur.

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