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It is popular belief that all undead and phantasmal revenants are slaves to their necromantic biology. Indeed, like most predatory wildlife, many of these creatures exist only to absorb or consume the energy of the living. They should never be bargained or reasoned with. An Altmer should deal with such creatures in the way she would handle a rabid wolf, or malevolent Orc: with extreme prejudice.
However, there are those among the post-living that possess or have achieved sentience, like vampires, lich, and wraiths. Dialogue is possible with creatures such as these, as long as one keeps certain discretions in mind:
1. An undead who speaks is bound to be powerful. Any creature whose magic is potent enough to allow it sentience in death deserves an Altmer's begrudging admiration.
2. An undead can never be trusted. Though we should respect the undead and their power, all undead want something from the living, and there is little to stop them from taking it. An Altmer must remain guarded in their presence. Always.
3. An undead might not be as she appears. Many powerful mages possess illusory spells to alter their appearance, and so, too, do the undead. The wandering spirit of a lost child could be a starving lich in disguise.
That said, there is much an Altmer can learn from the accumulated knowledge of a sentient undead, if dialogue can be achieved. The discerning Altmer could learn of ancient spells from time immemorial, first-hand accounts of historical events, or the locations of lost relics—if said Altmer can pose salient questions. When conversing with the likes of the undead, an Altmer wants to maintain an appearance of:
1. Humility. An Altmer's heritage should afford her much, and in an ideal world, all peoples, including liches, vampires, and wraiths, would adhere to the Altmeri concept of class and proceed accordingly. However, most undead, even Altmeri undead, rarely adhere to social conventions. As such, even the most well-bred of Altmer should refer to point 1 in the previous listing. Think of the undead as elders: powerful, unflinching, and prone to anger.
2. Intelligence. As is true with the Altmer, especially well-bred Altmer, the undead do not suffer fools. Without being overtly obvious, an Altmer wants to seek openings to display magical acumen or cunning to show that she is not to be trifled with. Again, think of intimidating a stern elder into compliance.
3. Discipline. Assuming an Altmer can enter into peaceful communication with a lich, wraith, vampire, or otherwise, she will undoubtedly have many questions. But she should be wary of the number of questions she asks. An undead will impart its knowledge willingly or not at all.
In Part II of this collection, I'll detail hurdles that may come up in conversation with the undead, specifically with wraiths, vampires, and liches, all of which require different operations of social intelligence.