When the war between Merlyn and Morgana was moving towards its end, things looked bleak. No clever scheme or wily trick could change the fact that, ultimately, Merlyn was going to lose. Morgana held open the hellgates and demons poured into Albion in an unstoppable torrent. For each demon destroyed, another three were ready to take its place. Even worse, Merlyn could see that the gates were expanding, and that soon, the great demon lords themselves would be able to climb through to Albion.
Rather than fight the demons directly, Merlyn planned to attack the gates and reverse Morgana’s magic. To do this, he needed a ritual of incredible power, and to fuel this ritual he needed two things: a battery of magical energy and the sacrifice of blood. A great deal of blood.
Gathering his acolytes together, Merlyn instructed them on what must be done, being careful not to mention that in carrying out the ritual, they would be damning their very souls.
The acolytes traveled to the site of the final battle where Arthur led his knights against Morgana’s champions. Both sides had their allies; the Keepers aiding Arthur while the Demons bolstered Morgana’s forces.
Though Merlyn’s acolytes were skilled, their power alone was nowhere near enough. The ritual required the destruction of a mighty artifact: Excalibur, the sword of kings. Excalibur was a symbol of power and of domination. The sword was Morgana’s greatest achievement, imbued with her own energies and, it is theorised, by demonic essence as well. By breaking it, Merlyn was symbolically breaking her, as well as releasing a vast quantity of magical energy back into Albion. And if Merlyn felt any guilt over betraying Arthur to do it, it was not enough to stop him.
When the sword shattered, its energy was captured by the ritual and redirected to terrible purpose. A great rift opened up and chill mists poured out, blanketing the battlefield and swiftly spreading over the land. The exact nature of the mist is unknown. Some theorise the rift opened onto the land of the dead, others that the mist was Merlyn’s transformed soul, still others that a dragon stirred deep beneath the earth and cast its breath out into the world.
What is known is that everyone who fought in the battle died that day, and that the mists brought death to thousands more as they spread; hunting out every demon and every trace of infernal power in Albion. When it was done, the hellgates had closed, Morgana was banished... and Merlyn? Of him, there was no sign.
While most of Albion recovered under the watchful eye of the Keepers, the ritual site and surrounding battlefields did not. A kind of sickness hung in these places, and thick mists clung to the barren earth. People and animals alike kept their distance, knowing in their hearts that nothing good remained there.
When the mists retreated they revealed that the ritual had not just taken the souls of those present at its casting, it had shattered them, leaving them neither fully in the bodies they had once inhabited nor fully out of them.
Strange cries carried on the wind as old bones moved once more, creaking inside rusty armor, while elsewhere, darker shades took wing, driven by a hunger that could never be sated.
The Undead remain an uncomfortable reminder of Albion’s past. They can often be avoided but are too dangerous to be ignored and too terrible to forget.
It should be added that while Harvesters seem to draw other Undead to them, there is no sign of any deeper connection. Indeed, most Undead seem oblivious to each other.