Spirit Hosts are a common sight amongst the armies of the dead, a horde of ethereal ghosts that swarm across the battlefield where neither blade nor bullet and find purchase.
Across Sylvania, poltergeists and ghosts haunt peasants with dreadful groans and freezing touches, sometimes driving whole villages to be abandoned as a result. When the Vampire Counts go to war, these restless spirits are pulled along by the Dark Magic of the Undead army. Insubstantial and impervious to mortal weapons, these angry ghosts swarm over the enemy, leeching energy from the living and leaving stark horror in their wake.[1a]
Sylvania is rich in the spirits of the dead, for it has a long history of misery and suffering, and is rife with polluting warpstone. As well as animating the physical remains of the dead, this sorcerous energy also has an effect on the souls of the departed. When Vlad von Carstein cast out the priests of Morr, wardens of the dead, he ensured that the spirits of those who had died could not pass into the afterlife. Since then, the unquiet spirits can often be seen as mournful, swirling mists, through which protrude mournful, wailing faces and grasping hands. Their touch draws some of a victim's soul into the underworld, dragging them into a waking nightmare or stealing their knowledge of who they are. Only a priest of Morr can restore the mind of one who has had his spirit drained by a ghost, and survivors of the process are rare.[1a]
All the peoples of the Empire share a common view of what happens to the souls of the dead - they pass into the underworld, the land of Morr, god of Death. Priests of Morr and wizards of the Amethyst College have been known to contact a soul in the underworld and remind it of its former life, strengthening the soul's grip on its memories. The mortal can then commune with that spirit, and learn of things that have passed and things that are yet to pass. The Empire's citizens also believe that sometimes Morr will close the gates of the underworld, and forbid a spirit from entering. He may do this if it is not that individual's time to pass beyond the veil, for instance, or the person has sworn an oath that they have not yet fulfilled. These souls burn brightly in the underworld and disturb the other spirits, and so Morr banishes them back to the realm of the living, condemning them to a shade-like existence until their duty is done.[1a]
It is these tortured spirits that can be called forth by the necromantic power of a Vampire, channelling Dark Magic so that the roaming ghosts can manifest themselves. Necromancers must undergo a stranger process still to bind the souls of men, sending their own spirits to the underworld of Morr. Once there, they can steal a few souls, snatching them from under the gaze of the god of the dead. However, sometimes Morr catches these interlopers, imprisoning them for eternity. Their body falls into a catatonic state and then slowly rots away, while their soul suffers anguish without end.[1a]
On the field of battle, these vengeful apparitions cluster together into hosts that drift slowly towards their warm-blooded victims with terrible inevitability. Even a cannonball strike will not damage a Spirit Host, for they exist only partially in this world. However, their twilight state does anything but render these spirits harmless. The ghost of a cursed man can claw at a mortal's flesh with long, taloned hands, stilling the victim's beating heart with a touch and killing him outright even as his eyes widen in shock.[1a]