Witches are rare, but can sometimes be found in the south of Thistleland and the north of The Southern Continent. While many act independently, developing their own unique spells and variations of stolen magic, some form into Covens to share knowledge, resources and research power.
Due to their limited powerbase, Witches have been known to use stashes and create dungeons both to live in, as well as remote workplaces and vaults for their resources. These places are often filled with traps and magic based dangers, as well as lucrative and rewarding loot.
Very rarely a Witch may attempt to live peacefully with local populations, either by attempting to hide their abilities or by providing a service. Rarely is such assistance to the ultimate benefit of the local Civilians.
The original Witches were once Mages and part of The Adventure Guild. On discovery of The Southern Continent the Mages attempted to understand more on how magic was practiced there. The Mages sent some number to investigate, and the discovery was made that the magic used was strikingly similar to the Mages own, with the largest differences being in how the magic was projected and the methodology.
At this point many of those sent decided to combine the Mages magic with The Southern Lands, against the wishes of both parties, and were banished by both. Turning their back on the ethics of the now hated Mages, they became the first Witches.
Due to their actions during this event and afterwards, the Witches are generally considered enemies to many of the factions of Thistleland and The Southern Continent. Both The Adventure Guild and the Mages have a kill-on-sight policy. Hostile factions include: Most Civilians The Adventure Guild Mages Adventurers Clerks Adventure Scouts The East Avala Company The Southern Continent in it's entirety
While the spells, summons and rituals that Witches use can vary vastly, their limited resources mean that many spells and the like are directly copied from their masters, shared amongst their Coven, and also copied from the original Mage and Southern Continent sources directly. This can give some level of predictability with what to expect when dealing with a Witch.
Summoned Creatures are arguably one of the most powerful applications of Mage and Southern Continent magic. Each summon is a complex and unique hand crafted spell that, when activated, will summon a creature that is based and determined entirely on the summon spell that is used to create it, and is also bound to said spell. A summon spell must be in written form, as the spell's physical existence acts as the focus for the creatures existence. To kill a summoned creature therefore, you must break, disrupt or destroy the summon spell, killing the creature normally will not work. Often a Coven will work together collectively for years to product a single summon spell.
Summoned creatures usually exist in two forms: Projections and flesh. Projections are the base form of a summon, the most basic form created. When a summon spell is broken, the ethereal projection will simply cease to exist. As a projection continues to exist, however, it may if advanced enough consume food and water, and much like any animal add this as flesh to it's form. Eventually if enough flesh is added, the summoned creature can be considered 'flesh'. Flesh summoned creatures can survive their summoned spell being broken, as they are flesh and blood creatures. Flesh summons can also survive fatal injuries as they will then rely on the summon projection. To kill a flesh summoned creature, you must destroy the summoning spell to render it mortal and also deliver a killing blow to the physical creature itself.
On extremely rare cases there were historically cases of Witches using stolen Avala Matter Engines to provide enough energy to directly summon a creature into flesh. In almost all cases this will destroy the Matter Engine. Such situations have caused some tension between the Avala descendants and The Adventure Guild.
Due to the complexity of summoning spells, and the potential for intelligent, even sapient creatures to be summoned, these spells are considered some of the most important things the makes will attempt to recover on killing a Witch. After investigating each summon spell, the Guild may, if it finds the spell to be safe, sell it on the open market as a basic assistant creature, or in the case of intelligent summons or sapient summons The Adventure Guild may decide that the summoned creature itself has the right to be considered a person, and may summon the creature and allow it self-determination. Some summoned creatures can be found in Guildtown, though in the case of sapient creatures are extremely rare.
Occasionally a Witch may have a summoned creature that is intelligent enough to be sentient. These creatures will be strongly allied to the witch, will willingly assist them and do their bidding and depending on the abilities of the witch may even have their own abilities and spells such as size growth, the ability to hold objects/victims within, or the ability to transform a person. Witches and Mages both call such creatures Familiars, and they are considered extremely valuable to both. Familiars are often known to have a somewhat playful or teasing nature, especially to potential victims.
One of the more grim and dangerous spells a Witch can place is to raise the dead to do their simple bidding. While this spell is originally a Southern Continent spell placed on stone or wood statues to create Golems for tasks, the witches lacked the manpower, skill and resources to create well carved stone or wood statues to animate for simple tasks. Instead, the Witches found it far easier to find (or create) a corpse and apply the same spell to that instead.
These undead are simply undead golems, without intelligence or the ability to adapt. They will operate their task mindlessly until they are destroyed. Dismemberment or destroying the head will not make any real difference to the undead a Witch creates, you must either render the undead body to such a state that it cannot move (such as burning to ashes) or destroy the seal to end the undead.
The Mages will often provide materials to assist with destroying undead, for a cost. These include materials called "white phosphor" and "thermite", which burn an undead to ashes.
Such spells require, much like summoning spells, a physical focus, which is the spell itself written down. In the most basic form the spell is applied to the corpse directly, usually on the head or torso, much like how the Southern lands create golems. However if a Witch is skilled, and/or has a Coven to assist in developing this spell, they can add new aspects.
Such aspects have been known to include: -Being able to place the summoning spell in a place physically detached from the undead to increase difficulty in destroying it. This may be hundreds of miles away. -Adding the ability for detached limbs/head to still operate once removed from the body, complicating a fight with the undead. -Enhancing the spell to ensure the undead cannot be destroyed by heat. -Rarely a powerful coven will work out how to render an undead immune to all damage, requiring the seal to be broken.
Usually such undead are used to guard dungeons, treasures and resources a Witch would otherwise have to leave unguarded. On occasion a Witch that decides to cause chaos will attempt to gather corpses, often with violence, ro amass a large amount of undead, either as a defence against The Adventure Guild, or to attack a local settlement.
Another, more horrifying use that Witches have for the Raise dead is the Possession of the living. Taking the same idea of using a corpse instead of stone statue, some Witches use living people instead of corpses. The effect of this is largely the same, rendering the victim entirely under the control of the Witch for simple commands, while also conscious of their actions.
Such possessed people have no control of their actions. The possession does not affect the victims consciousness or willpower: The victim is fully awake and aware of what they are doing. Instead the spell takes direct control of their flesh, much like with Raise Dead. There are cases where victims have attempted to resist their actions only to snap the muscles and bones in their limbs from the strain.
The effect is such that broken bones and snapped muscles will not diminish a possessed person's movements, as the spell does not reply on the victims own strength. A person with a shattered leg bone will be made to walk without a limp by the spell, though they will likely scream in pain throughout.
While an effective and terrifying ability, the use of this spell requires the spell to be tied to the victim, with direct contact as the spell is applied. For this reason and also the fact that many Witches themselves are upset at causing so much pain, the standard Possession spell is rarely used.
A more advanced form used by some highly skilled Witches involves complete subjugation of the victim, both in body and mind. Effectively a form of mind control, this version of possession only differs from the standard in that it reduces the victim to a state of mental compliance, akin to hypnosis. Other then that mercy, the possession spell is the same as above.
Some witches have had access to the transformation fluid of The Changed Lands and have researched it's use extensively. Though live experimentation with local population, some Covens have even successfully produced working controlled potions and objects able to transform people to specific creatures as they desire, as well as turning them back again. Typically these are designed to turn someone into a small feral animal, though the person retains their mind throughout.
Witches are known to use these potions, or objects infused with these potions (such as wands and even some spells) to capture people as small, helpless animals to steal away, to store captives easily, for their own amusement as well as to make enemies easy to kill. Some even do this to feed their Familiars, taking delight in lowering pesky adventurers turned mice, rabbits or the like down into the throat of their beloved waiting Familiar, or even for their own food supply...
While such a transformation ability is strongly opposed by the Mages, they have been able to research the potions used to turn people back into their original form, and indeed this research is what led to the Transformation Reversal Potion used in The Changed Lands today.