Philosophers of the Knife
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The Philosophers of the Knife
They are a young ideological camp of Necromancers, the result of some obscure movement in the drama of the necromantic subculture. They do not often talk about the origins of their philosophy, and in turn few outside their peers know the story. What is known is that there is an approach to necromancy called the Philosophy of the Knife, whose adherents face off in equal measure against both monsters and gods.
The Philosophers refer to their approach to necromancy as the Great Work, and if you were speaking to one you could hear the capital letters. They pursue necromancy not for temporal power, but because they believe that through necromancy they will find the road to transcendence. While it is certainly a fact that powerful Necromancers can become immortal liches, the Philosophers seem to want something more and their passion for this state drives them to accept atrocity in its name.
Unlike the Perverse, the Philosophers are keenly aware of how perilous their journey into the darkness is. The Philosophy of the Knife is a system of moral principles and assumptions whose best known axiom is, "Between a Necromancer and a monster is the width of a knife."
In their grim pursuit of fleshly alchemy and transcendence, the Philosophers reject both the excesses of the Perverse and the moral authority of the gods. This has given them the fairly unique position of being hated by everybody. Despite this, the Philosophy of the Knife continues to grow and spread through the necromantic cults, often spurring individual Necromancers to abandon their fellows in exchange for solitary advancement of the Great Work.
The Philosophers regard the other ideological camps as naive; the Perverse are child-like and the Redeemed are moral and intellectual midgets. The other camps regard the Philosophers as dangerous mavericks that follow an absurd and contrived philosophy.
The Philsopher itself is founded on a book written by the Necrolord Kigot. It was entitled The Philosophy of the Knife. Far from the mind-blasting grimoires and occult, demonic rites that usually populate a Necromancer's shelf, it was a simple, albeit long, book on the philosophy of man.
We find ourselves in this situation because we all have a problem with faith. It is dangerously easy to ignore the perverse cults and the self-styled Redeemed as two lunatic fringes of the Great Work, when perhaps it is wiser to say we form three points of a triangle drawn around blessed sanity.
Man cannot exist without an outlet of faith; even the rare atheist will be caught speaking of nature, fate, or even society in terms of the divine. We are still not so far removed from our humanity to subsist on logic alone. What then is our madness; to what do we hold blindly?
Outsiders would say our philosophy and the Great Work is our faith, but this is a flawed response. Though an ever-rising river of blood separates us, and ash from the sorcerer-fires stings our eyes, we have not been wholly severed from the acts that defined us. The enemy has failed in that small way, but it is the difference between the battle and the war. The Great Work is not borne from faith, but from careful experimentation in the glaring light of truth. The day we lose that thread of our history is the day we become another blood-soaked cult, the Great Work spins out of control and the philosophy loses its moral authority.
Our real madness would surprise the enemy, if they could bring themselves to believe it. The philosophy does not place faith in rites, occult secrets or demonic pacts. It values nothing so dramatic. We put our faith in simple man. At the heart of every written word in the philosophy is the conceit that man is beautiful and deserving of life. Our morality presumes that man can be free of fate and gods, and that he is capable of deciding for himself what is good and evil.
We struggle with the Great Work because we desperately need to believe man deserves to be saved from the strange forces that pass judgment over it. We long for them to stand and quit the night; they are men, and no power in the universe has the right to say what is theirs.
As we struggle against the chains that bind man and the night that blinds him, it should worry more of us to understand the pattern behind these things. We find ourselves in this situation because we all have a problem with faith, and a treasonous voice asks me at night to consider what would truly happen if man is freed.
A Way Out
A lot of talk goes into the Necromancers vs. the Gods. But, you see, the gods aren't the immediate problem. They are the mad architects of man's misery, but they are not the instrument by which humanity suffers. Humanity is locked in a struggle against its environment which begins with the pain of birth and inevitably ends with the bleak hell to which all souls are consigned when they die a final time.
This word bears repeating: inevitably. No matter how good you are, no matter how perfect you lived your life, no matter what the balance of your sins and virtues are, you die. You might die very quickly, or you might go on for a thousand years on a wing, a prayer, and a little necromantic magic, but your final reward for enduring the sick game the gods have laid out before you is death. Every natural mechanism, no matter how benevolent seeming, exists for the express purpose of leading man down a set path to his obliteration. It doesn't matter if you are a saint or a sinner, the end game is exactly the same.
Nature is the enemy of the Philosophers, because they see it for what it is: the charnel house of the gods.
With far more desperation than zeal, the Philosophers want a way out. They want to end their participation in the gods' soul-crushing machine; they want an end to pain, disease, hunger, and death. They desperately hope that somewhere in the most terrible corners of the human experience, hidden in the dark, they will find the endless dawn that is the birth-right of every man who stares at his world and sees how truly wrong it is.
After all, it's not like they have much to lose. What are the gods going to do, damn them? Kill them? As if that wasn't in the cards already.
The Only Answer
As far as the Philosophers of the Knife go, they'd argue that Life is rigged from the word go. The entire concept of life and nature has been designed to cause suffering and death. Empaths might be ignorant fools that simply try to delay the inevitable, or willing conspirators in the design who prop people back up again and again to suffer ever increasing amounts of pain.
The only answer is to tear it all down; to kill death and reinvent what it means to be alive. If nature is predestined to murder its children, then nature needs to be...fixed.
The other camps would agree with the Empath party line to a greater or lesser extent, though they very well might not care or believe in the moral implications.
It has been mentioned that the Philosophers seek "something more." What is it?
Depends on the individual Philosopher currently. Though the Philosophers have some sort of shared legacy and background that they have not spoken to others about, they currently operate independently from each other, chasing their own images of the "Great Work."
You could have Philosopher #1 in his hidden cabin in the woods, trying to create a plague that will wipe away all "unclean" things on Elanthia. Philosopher #2 is up in a crumbling castle trying to create the perfect, sentient, and soul-invested Risen. Philosopher #3 is neck-deep in alchemy and his skin is probably a lovely shade of grey-blue for the effort, while Philosopher #4 tracks occult correspondences to undermine the dire forces of nature and life mana at what he believes are their supernatural roots.
They all share the image that somehow, The Answer is found in necromancy, and that if they go deep enough and refine it far enough, they will find the key to bring themselves (or, if they're feeling generous, all of mankind) out into the utopia they image exists on the far side of death. Strangely, for all the fervor they seem to feel about this, none of them seem to remember what The Answer is.
There's a lot of question marks surrounding the Philosophers of the Knife. Outside of what they preach about the Great Work, little is known about the strange and rare Necromancers that stand against gods and demons alike.
The complete lack of background information on the Philosophers of the Knife is a bit ominous. Consider for a moment the resources that your average government or well-connected institution has on Kermoria. Among other tools at your disposal, you have scholars who can literally perceive events after they've already happened, diviners who can perceive events before they happen, and healers capable of sensing the unspoken guilt in a man's soul. It takes enormous resources to keep anything secret for long once the influential realize there's a secret to be had.
Both the paranoid and the perceptive come to the same conclusion: the secrecy surrounding the Philosophers of the Knife is not their doing. Someone is purposefully obscuring the origin of the Philosophers and the individual or group responsible for it has enough influence to get away with it. Why this is happening (and who is doing it) is anyone's guess.
The first Philosophers of the Knife appear in history almost one hundred years ago, seemingly out of nowhere. They enjoyed a fairly even geographical spread, with an emphasis on Zoluren and Theren that likely reflects the state of the trade routes at the time. Best estimates suggest that there are 50 Philosophers active on Kermoria.
I fear my brothers have stared at the light of the gods too long, and can no longer see in the dark.
Only the most vile minds could conspire to create a world on which the final reward of life is death.
If you cannot show me paradise, I will not blindly follow you there! I would rather walk balanced on the edge of a knife. Likely inspired by this comment, he would later open his final work with, Between a Necromancer and a monster is the width of a knife.