Instead of explaining further, she sniffs at the air. You take your breather mask off, but you don’t smell anything.
“Think you’ve lost me there,” you say. “Can’t smell a thing.” You put the mask back on just in case.
“Decay,” she says. “It’s faint. And I think it might need ether sense to detect it at all.”
“I think there’s some part of the explanation you’re leaving out.”
“You’ve heard of necromancy? Animating the dead?” she asks.
“Of course I have. Also heard that all the wizards say it’s impossible. Even the creepy ones who actually tried it.”
“Only if you need them to do complex things,” the woman explains. “In principle, making a dead body move is no harder than making a rock move – the hard part is making it move like a living body. Just getting a corpse that, say, floats around, that’s simple. A little more ether and you can make it wave its arms around. It won’t be able to obey any commands, only do what you tell it to directly, and ether will flow out of it much faster than with a rock. But you can get a crude corpse puppet if you’re really determined.”
“And you believe such a creature may have been present?” the priest asks. “And that it somehow captured the priests?”
“Or maybe they killed the priests and moved the corpses,” Arlene suggests. She’s trying to be helpful, but it’s just disturbing.
“No, if they did that, there wouldn’t be time for the bodies to decay,” the woman says. She’s a little annoyed. “I’d be smelling fresher blood. There’s using it to scare people off, of course, but that doesn’t seem like it would be as effective with priests. But maybe you get a corpse of, say, a big sea creature with sticky tentacles. Just let it flail around and catch people.”
“I feel like there’d be more signs of struggle if that were it,” you mutter. But something’s nagging at you.
She smells decay, suspects a magically puppeted corpse is involved. And Grandmother’s map is apparently pointing to cemeteries. There’s a connection there and you’re not entirely sure it isn’t a coincidence.
Then a thought hits you.
“Lures,” you say. “Show them the bodies of loved ones. Get them to follow. Like the stories of the Ship of the Dead.”
The woman frowns.
“It’s technically possible to pull that off, or something similar. Combine it with some illusions to weaken their resolve, and they’re less likely to resist a charm spell. Then you can lead them wherever you’d like. But you’d need to know the priests very well. And who’s to say they all have someone that close they miss?”
“That is easier than it sounds at first,” the priest says. “There is someone very important to all the priests of Nual in this town.”