Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
Spare the Dying
”Jannath…” the musical lilt of the final syllable lingered in his ear as he gasped awake. His muscles tensed as he tried to sit up, but the pain dropped him back onto his side. Fingers reached to where the arrow had pierced his chest… it was gone.
As his vision cleared, he saw it laying in front of him, covered in his blood. And he remembered…
He’d crept inside the Neth settlement, over the half-finished log wall, without being seen. Once inside he searched for the stone, as the silvan had instructed, in the largest building. No one was inside but his life in the tents and wood had not prepared him to search the boxes and chests.
At last he’d found it, the glowing stone he’d been sent for, but when he grasped it he broke its container. Its pieces hit the floor with a crash not only making noise but creating shards that cut into his feet and hands when he tried to muffle their din.
A shout from outside told him he was discovered! He ran from the place back the way he’d come, and heard them pursuing. The stone in his bloody hand glowed brighter as he ran. Gashes in his foot slowed him and caused him to stumble leaping to the walls. Arrows thunked into the pole beside him. But he managed to heave himself over.
He landed heavily on his injured foot and dropped to a knee in pain. Pain seared into him like a panther bite, but his oath to the silvan drove him back up. He needed to get the Neth prize to the gorge or his life would be forfeit.
Into the woods he shot, like wounded prey driven before the hunt. Only a few hundred yards to go, and a smile crossed his face. The silvan would be there at the lip of the gorge to stop them with their own magic.
He came into the clearing at the edge of the defile, breath rasping, the pain a dull thunder in his head. The moon shone full overhead, and sounds of pursuit were closing. Where was the silvan? Treacherous little sprite!
At a sound behind, he turned but instead of salvation he saw a Neth archer at the woods’ edge, drawing. The arrow found its mark, driven deep into his chest, like a wolf’s charge throwing him backward into the ravine.
He fell, sliding down to the river, down the defile where none could reach him. Except darkness. And death. He would return to the land in death, but he would take their magic with him. His fingers clutched the glowing stone as his spirit drained away…
The stone! His fingers again grasped out, searching but it was gone. A bit of movement drew his eyes up to the creature crouched smiling, just behind him.
The tiny silvan withdrew his hand from the man’s head as he tucked the now dull stone into his leathers and capered into the underbrush. The man would live, now, as they had agreed. But it would take him many days to heal. Meanwhile, there was much to do, and much to consider about the Neth.
Spare the Dying is one of the most impactful magics known and used by most holy folk. Absent magical healing or expert attention by those skilled in the healing arts, the dying tend to slip away into oblivion relatively quickly. Clerics and druidic healers can provide a stabilization of the life force which allows those dying to rest, albeit uncomfortably, until healing can occur.
Spare the Dying’s ubiquity among clerical and druidic healers makes its origin difficult to ascertain. Most holy orders tend to emphasize the central role of their deity in granting or preserving life, or at least the lives of its followers and adherents.
However, it is interesting to point out that unlike healing which evokes the life force to mend and knit living tissues in the material world, Spare the Dying manipulates the necrotic draw of life energy, stopping, or in very rare cases, reversing its flow briefly, to the benefit of the recipient. While the effect is nearly universally seen as positive, it is necromancy nonetheless.
The spell’s power, like many fundamental magics likely stems from the primeval powers that helped to forge life through the gods and their kin at the beginnings of time, rather than from the power of any one particular deity. As such, fey creatures are considered especially adept at weaving its power through their close connection with the natural world and the earth mother.
Learning and Casting the Spell
The casting of Spare the Dying does not require any materials, only a deep faith to draw upon one’s holy power, typically accompanied by a plea to one’s deity. The caster must touch the recipient of the spell, typically while saying the name of the deity, to stem the flow of life energy. It is the simplest of “healing” spells that can be cast, requiring no particular expenditure of magical energy beyond the plea to the deity, or natural life force.
For many clerics with any background as part of a formal order, the first opportunity to use Spare the Dying comes early. One of the easier spells to learn, Spare the Dying seems to have very few negative impacts on the victim with failure, aside from not stabilizing the recipient. Acolytes serving as battlefield medics, or caring for those in need in the facilities associated with their order are often called upon to join in casting, in a supervised manner, when the need arises. With support from more experienced casters to ensure proper use, the spell can be easily mastered.
Though it is little discussed, because Spare the Dying involves necromancy, experienced brothers of healing orders like to teach the spell more directly, to ensure their acolytes are using their deities’ power to stem the flow of life energy, rather than do anything else with it.
Spell Effects and Appearance
Typically, the effect of Spare the Dying is little seen, as recipients of its effect are typically not in the best condition regardless. Bleeding may slow or cease, and a restfulness can come across the recipient that belies their dire condition. In very rare cases, the spell serves to jolt the injured back to consciousness, though they will remain feeble until more properly healed.
Those who are skilled with medicine and healing of a more mundane type can typically rouse the dying by using their skills and bandages in conjunction with the casting of Spare the Dying. Those who must be moved from the field of battle after being near death can benefit greatly from this type of care, unlike those who might linger in unconsciousness until later killed by an enemy force overrunning the field.
Interestingly, this spell is used by some orders in a manner not approved by all. Those who are irretrievably infirm, dying horrifically or in great pain can also be stabilized by Spare the Dying, which can essentially render their suffering bodies unto unconsciousness. Death often follows for those whose bodies might not ever be capable of healing or recovery, but it is a placid death without pain. Spare the Dying is intended to stanch the flow of life energy, but perhaps some ebbing of the life force may occur from a stabilized state if the recipient is ancient or infirm regardless of a injured condition. I would not accuse those I’ve seen using the spell in this way of misuse, only know that I have seen it used to great palliative effect on those suffering inevitable death.