- "They appear to cling to their Undead status by sheer willpower. Their magic is irrelevant; whatever petty dabblings they may have indulged in during their lives have clearly failed, or else they would still have a corporeal form. It is only their twisted spirits, wracked with hatred and pain, that keeps them in this world at all, and only by the most tenuous threads. "
- —Heinrich Malz, High Priest of Verena.[2a]
Cairn Wraiths are hooded, spectral spirits of former Necromancers or Sorcerers that have used the corrupting influence of Dark Magic to extend their lives beyond the mortal limit, but at the price of losing one's own mortal body.
Though their appearance may perceive it, these spirits are not servants of Morr, the Death God in any way, for they have defied the Death God's authority by preventing the inevitability of their deaths and continuing to do so even in the afterlife. Afraid of the punishment that lies for them in the afterlife, these spirits would try all they can to cling to this fading world.[1a]
Within the material world, these spirits are amongst the most dreaded of all Undead. Lacking physical forms altogether, they cannot be put down by axe, sword or hammer. Even the strongest faith such as Exorcisms used by Warrior Priest cannot banish such creatures easily. Worse still, the icy touch of a Cairn Wraith drains the warm essence of mortal men completely. A Cairn Wraith is capable of reaching into the body of an adversary and closing its freezing claws around the victim's vital organs, sending painful chills that kills the man instantly.[1a]
Before the founding of the Colleges of Magic, men knew little about the magical arts. For thousands of years, there were tribal wise men, gifted seers, healers, astrologers and hedge magicians who were viewed with suspicion, awe or fear. Through a quirk of nature or mindset, these lucky few were able to use the Winds of Magic with relative safety. For most, the only magic that could be harnessed was unpredictable shamanism or difficult rituals. Many did not realise the inherent hazards of what they were doing. Slowly, the sorcery corrupted them, and as they became steeped in Dark Magic, these sorcerers learned to extend the span of their lives by decades, even centuries.[1a]
Most of these seekers of immortality managed only to preserve their spirits, not their bodies. Decay took their mortal forms, rotting it away even as they sought desperately to sustain it. With no corporeal form to speak of, these sorcerers became wandering spirits, clad only in their death shrouds. As their grip on the world of mortals weakened, these vagrant souls were drawn to places of grief, where they lingered, feeding on the sorrow of mourners. Not truly alive but unable to die, they became chilling shadows caught between this world and the next as miserable spirits who hunger for the warmth and flesh of mortals. Bound in the mortal realm to tombs and barrows, swathed in robes of inky darkness, these spirits became Cairn Wraiths.[1a]
So unnatural are Cairn Wraiths that their very presence fills the air with horror. Even the hardened soldiery of the Empire shiver at the mention of a Cairn Wraith sighting; most folks that have actually set eyes upon them become crazed with fear long before they are killed. Though each Wraith is possessed of a glimmering will, there are ancient rituals known to the eldest Vampires that can call forth these unquiet spirits and bind them into an army. Only when the ritual is intoned backwards, syllable by syllable, are the Cairn Wraiths released back to the place of their death.[1a]
The Vampire Counts purposefully bind these Cairn Wraiths, willingly or not, to his service and using them as a form of near invincible shock infantry. Accompanied by units of deathless warriors, these sinister spirits glide across the battlefield, tattered robes rippling in the etheric winds as arrows, bullets and bolts pass harmlessly through them. Unhindered by cannonball or flame, the Wraiths close in on their prey, seeking out and cutting down the enemy without so much as a whisper. The crippling fear that arises from having to fight a nigh-unkillable scythe-wielding spectre can make even the bravest man flee the battlefield. Because they are impervious to physical weaponry, only the raw energies of magic or a well-placed blow from an enchanted weapon can slay a Cairn Wraith. It is perhaps a blessing then, that the Cairn Wraiths are so few in numbers within the entirety of the Old World.[1a]
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Vampire Count (8th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 30
- 2: Old World Bestiary (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 2a: pg. 68 - 69