Soulgems; A Study
A large book wrapped in leather that looks somewhat singed. It appears to have an actual Soulgem embedded in the bound cover; it swirls faintly with orange, red, and green. It appears to be guarded by some sort of undead creature.
This book is a novel dedicated to the study of Soulgems. It is split into several parts, written in a tidy script by an old necromancer who seemed to specialize in the creation of such objects. These are her findings.
About the Soulgem
A Soulgem, known by no other official name, is a small marble-sized orb that consists of an individual's living spirit, crystallized like a round gemstone. Soulgems are formed of the entire essence of the victim; even their body is converted into reiatsu, and condensed into the orb. They may be utilized for a variety of magical purposes, though what amount of energy being used will contribute to the Soulgem's overall life. Often, an overused Soulgem will become dormant and will eventually die. Because of this, the creation of them is outlawed in most civilized areas.
Soulgems are round gemstones that appear to be no larger or smaller than an inch and a half in diameter, round and smooth, their hue pertaining to the reiatsu color of the individual condensed within. These colors may be anything, and have any appearance: many swirl like miniature storms, though others may move sluggishly if at all. Strong Soulgems may give off their own light or glow in pulses. The strongest may be aware enough to communicate with such light, but this was never seen in my studies.
Living Soulgems are never without some movement of the energies crystallized within. No matter how subtle, or imperceptible, they may be, this is always present along with a sense of presence about the Gem that differs from individual to individual. Dormant Soulgems have little to no movement, and a presence may be faint if felt at all. Dead Soulgems may dull in color over time and will eventually begin to crack and disintegrate until there is little more than colorful dust left. However, it takes thousands of years for a dead Soulgem to reach such a point; usually they are lost or purposefully destroyed long before this happens.
Creation of a Soulgem
A Soulgem may be created with a variety of methods and a range of different magics. Most involve the caster to have some proficiency with their own reiatsu, some type of spiritual manipulation, or an item to use as a catalyst to enhance weak spiritual power. Soulgem creation is considered a dark art, part of necromancy, and is often frowned upon by many traditional civilizations in the Realms. As most individuals do not wish to become Soulgems, resistance will be present most times, and that resistance will need to be overcome and overwhelmed before the spirit can be crystallized into its gemstone form.
Once a foe has been defeated or significantly weakened, preferably comatose, one will be able to start the process. A spirit is much like water. It must be contained, molded, controlled - and you are only able to do so if your own powers of mind and soul are honed sharp as a blade. Mold the soul beneath your hands, guide it to begin to deconstruct itself. The moorings of the spirit will become loosened, and its energies will begin to attack the physicality of the body, turning hard matter into aura much like to itself. In this state, when the body and soul are but fire beneath your fingertips, you must shape it down and compress it upon itself with the force of your will lest it return to its original shape. With your own power, you will be able to condense it into its final form - that of a gemstone, round as the sun, small enough to fit in the middle of your palm.
Done correctly, the living Soulgem will swirl with color and you will feel the presence of the one within. There are a few known methods to keep it in this shape: exert your will upon it at intervals depending on how strong the soul is (and how weak your own energies are), which is good for temporary Soulgems only; convince the soul within that they must remain in this shape (sometimes they will do this anyways, but never assume lest it be a trick), which may work for long periods of time or up to the point where the soul has decided they do not, actually, need to remain in such a shape; or layer the Gem with enchantments that prevent the soul from breaking free on its own. There are, of course, those who will never be strong enough to return to a living state on their own, but for the sake of this study, we will assume that all do.
If you wish to bind an already-dead spirit to a Soulgem, the method remains much the same. This method is faster, but often results in a weaker Soulgem that is more prone to breakage or dormancy depending on what the strength of the spirit that created the Gem is. You must still cow the soul and force it to take a solid, crystalline shape, and then you must keep it in that shape.
Usage and Workings
In brief, Soulgems are primarily used for a power source; they can be drawn upon by skilled mages, used for everything from enhancing natural magic to powering magical devices. Powerful sorcerers find even greater uses for Soulgems, and may collect them in large numbers. Often, they are used to power golems, barriers, and many other things until they run dry.
When used, a Soulgem can only last as long as its energy holds before it overtaxes and goes dormant, then dies. This differs from Soulgem to Soulgem; however, it may be altered by fueling the Soulgem in any number of ways*. Recorded times have varied so much as minutes to decades, with some test subjects still possessing living traits within their Gems some sixty years after initial testing. When a Soulgem goes dormant, however, it may remain that way forever though it is unclear if a soul ages, degrades, or changes while in this state. None that have become dormant have ever come out, though it is theorized it's possible.
* (a note in the margin reads: this only works for normal Soulgems, not any of the variations.)
Soulgems are also known to exhibit some level of sapience still when not dormant; the strongest may even communicate in non-language ways, such as light displays or radiated emotions. None are capable of true speech, except by those tied to golems. Stronger Soulgems may have some awareness of what's going on in their immediate vicinity, though attempts to properly communicate with them have failed. Telepathy does not work. Dormant Soulgems cannot communicate at all, and the soul simply appears to sleep. Now, it has been discovered that Soulgems that spend decades kept as a Soulgem, but then later returned to a living state, may show signs of mental degradation depending on the individual in question. Some have had to have been put down due to agitated insanity.
When a flawed or damaged soul or being is crafted into a Soulgem, that Soulgem may be flawed as well, and has the increased likelihood of becoming one of the variants listed further on. If it has more stability than those variations, it may still prove very weak and prone to breakage. Physical damage to a Soulgem that does not outright destroy it may lead to instability or dormancy; small fractures and cracks may affect the Gem's lifespan, but otherwise does not seem to harm it.
When a Soulgem finally dies or is destroyed, the soul itself ceases to exist. It does not travel to the Soulplane, and lives on in the Farplane for only as long as memory of its spirit exists. However, it has been theorized that if the Soulgem is physically destroyed, yet a piece - for example, a shard - survives, then the Soulgem may be rebuilt and the spirit may return from the Farplane. This could potentially only be done by the Spirit Goddess, or one of her Spirit Kings, for I nor my colleagues believe any mortal is capable of such a feat.
To release a Soulgem capable of regaining a living form, or a full spirit (if dead), one must return the soul to the state it was before control was taken or get them to as close to that state as possible. Any enchantments keeping the spirit crystallized must be taken off, as well as anything influencing the soul within. The spirit must be free to expand and change, and realize that they can - automatic reversion is also possible, but quite rare and often a violent transformation. Beware of the individual's mental state when released, as they may not be wholly sane.
Below I have listed an assortment of different Soulgem variations apart from the traditional, normal Gem. All of them are rare, and all are dangerous, often the result of magic gone wrong or other interference when the Gem is being made.
The rarest and most volatile kind of Soulgem. Considered an 'unbound' Soulgem that, while its spirit is indeed crystallized, much of its power and magic are not. The soul inside cannot control this energy, however - it is simply released continually in waves of reiatsu until the Gem either frees itself or overtaxes, goes dormant, and dies. This reiatsu is often so volatile it eats away at anything nearby, and may actively damage the souls of those that stand too near. These Gems are useless except as weapons, and creation of such is not recommended. Some may be able to free themselves and return to a living form before their energy is spent - but this does not happen often. They cannot, in any way, be freed by an outside means. Called BurstGems for the bursts of continual power they release until freed or overtaxed.
A very rare Soulgem, the governance and creation of held by the Highlord, Spirit King of the Highrealm, alone. Created only from already-dead souls, standing before the Lord of Hell during his or her Judgement. The following knowledge is conjecture only; I have no personal experience with ExpiaGems, and nor do I expect anyone else to unless the serve one of the Spirit Kings alone. An ExpiaGem, as they are called, is a form of temporary punishment or penance for a soul to be judged. It is designed to test the soul entrapped within for a set period of time, perhaps as some form of justice or last chance at proving that one's soul is worth saving from Hell. It is unknown what happens within the Gem exactly, or what may happen to the tested spirit once freed.
A unique variant of Soulgem that is not only the crystallized spirit of an individual, but also some amount of elemental affinity along with it. Considered corrupted, and not usable for anything but that particular magic. They will display some aura of that element around the Gem itself, such as frost on an ice-aligned Gem, or heat radiating from a fire-aligned Gem. Eventually, the element will destroy and kill the soul within, and the Gem will lose its form and disintegrate. Cannot be returned to living form at any stage, and is very permanent until destruction. Called HexGems, perhaps for their rather chaotic nature.
Immensely powerful Soulgems forged of spirits barely contained, layered with protective spells to keep that tenuous barrier in place. Much easier to tap into even for non-mages, and thus preferred for great workings. These particular Soulgems are also able to be fused to another - soul tied to soul - enabling the Soulgem to power the user both magically and physically. However, this also brings with it great vulnerability; if the Soulgem is damaged or destroyed, the one tied to it will die, and the Gem will be destroyed if its bonded dies. This bond is also not easily undone, and the separation will often destroy the Soulgem and kill the user. With skill, may be able to be returned to living form if the Gem has not been bonded to another. Otherwise, considered permanent until destruction. Often called KingGems for their sheer power.
Soulgems created when the process is rushed, and/or the Gem is malformed. The crystal will be very unstable, and must be handled with great care. Too much force - such as dropping one even a short distance to the floor, or knocking against one with something relatively hard - will result in an explosive blast of energy and the complete destruction of the Gem itself. The amount of explosive force and the duration of the energy-fire that remains depends on the soul's strength itself. Cannot be returned to living form; are considered permanent until detonation. Called QuakeGems for their propensity to shake the earth when they explode.
A very rare occurrence where two souls are combined into a single Soulgem. They must be fused at creation, and two existing Soulgems cannot be fused after they have already been crystallized. These are known to be much more powerful than they would be on their own, but are quite unstable and are prone to exploding without due cause. It has been noted that two souls that have had some close bond in life are generally more stable, and may last for longer periods of time before rupturing. Cannot be returned to living form; are considered permanent until detonation. Called TwinGems for obvious reasons.
I have instructed my apprentices to place my Soulgem into the cover of this book when I am near death; therefore, my findings will be protected, and there will always be room for more information to be recorded. Do mind the spells upon this book, for if you damage its precious contents, you will become one of its undead guardians.