Magic fundamentally shapes the nature of death on Aetaltis. The loss of life does not necessarily mean the end of existence. Not only does one’s spirit live on, but the body may continue to function as well. It's even possible to reunite body and spirit to return a dead person to life.
Life and Death
To understand death on Aetlatis, one must first understand life. On Aetaltis, something is alive when it has a spirit bound to a physical form. All living things on Aetaltis, from plants and animals to the races of the Alliance and the enari, have this in common. For plants, this spirit is rudimentary and little more than a vaguely formed shell of essence. For sentient creatures the spirit is a complex essence construct beyond the capabilities of even the most accomplished mortal spellcaster to replicate.
When a living thing dies, the essence bonds that hold the spirit and body together dissolve, freeing the spirit into the essential plane. For lesser living things, such as plants, insects, and animals, their spirit becomes one with the essential plane and ceases to exist as an independent entity. The spirits of sentient beings, however, retain their spiritual form.
The final resting place of a sentient spirit depends on its nature. The spirits of good beings are drawn up to Lensae, while those of evil beings are drawn down to Endroren. From the tales of those who have returned from death, it is known that the spirits of the dead feel a powerful compulsion to leave our world and that very few spirits can resist this pull.
Good and Evil
Spirits of the enari and Alliance races are drawn to the Golden Halls of Lensae. This often includes the spirits of people Aetaltan society might label as evil. The Enaros’ view of good and evil is significantly different than that of mortals'. Even if a person performs evil acts during their life, this doesn’t in itself make them truly evil. Their actions might not fit the moral and ethical norms for a civilized society, but their evil actions are not enough to completely corrupt their spirit. This is the case for the majority of people that are labeled evil by society.
The endrori, the abomonae, and the Fallen, however, are beings of true evil. There isn’t a single spark of good in them. From their physical forms to their spirits, they are beings of utter Darkness. They cannot be redeemed, will never change their ways, and are forever banned from the Golden Halls. When spirits of this sort are broken free from their mortal forms, they are drawn to the center of the world and consumed by Endroren.
The Journey to Lensae
A spirit’s arrival at Lensae is not guaranteed. It may take months, decades, or even centuries for the spirit to complete its journey. Many never arrive at all, becoming lost along the way or falling victim to the forces of Darkness. To ease the passage from this world to the next good spirits have two things working to aid them: Spirit Guides and Numos.
Numos, Aetaltis' moon, was created by Aelos as a beacon to the spirits of the dead. It lights the deep shadows of the essential plane and helps to guide spirits along the path to Lensae. It also serves as a place where weary spirits can rest and gather their energy for their final journey to the Golden Halls.
Numos has a further significance to those who deal with the dead. It is the last point at which one can contact a spirit before it passes on to its final rest. Summonings, resurrections, and other spells requiring contact only work if that spirit has not moved beyond Numos. Once it leaves Numos all hopes of calling it back are lost.
Spirit Guides are mortal agents of Aelos who use special rituals known as the Last Rites to guide the spirit of the deceased on to Numos. These rituals significantly reduce the time it takes a spirit to travel from Aetaltis to Numos, thus lowering the risk that something unfortunate could happen to the spirit along the way.
The last rites also prevent Necromancers from using the body and spirit of the deceased to create undead. The last rites unravel the spiritual moorings that connect body and spirit together. This prevents necromancers, or any other agents of darkness, from forcibly binding a new spirit to the body or forcibly summoning the detached spirit. Conversely, this also makes it impossible for a cleric to resurrect a person, making the last rites a very final act.
Nearly every settlement in the Amethyst Sea basin has a Spirit Guide in residence. Often the local priest doubles as the town spirit guide, but the Guide isn’t always a holy person. A channel to the divine makes last rites easier and more effective, but any person with the proper training can administer the last rites.
For those settlements who do not have a Spirit Guide there are Guides who travel the countryside to help those in need. They move from village to village, performing last rites as needed. Alternatively, family and friends might choose to transport the body of a loved one to a nearby settlement that does have a guide to have the last rites performed.
The body of the deceased is not necessary for a Spirit Guide to administer last rites. It only makes the task far easier, since the body serves as a conduit to the spirit. Lack of a body protects the spirit, but it does not protect the physical body against use in necromantic rituals. This aspect of the last rites is only possible when the body is present.
If the body is not in one piece, or only portions of the body are available, these pieces still help to focus the last rites. A complete body that is no longer intact, however--say one that has been cremated--is more effective than a partial body, but less effective than a whole body.
The Journey Into Darkness
For the spirits of those who have pledged themselves to the powers of Darkness, there is but one destination. These unfortunate souls find themselves drawn down through Aetaltis and into the waiting hands of Endroren. The dark lord consumes these spirits. Each one makes him stronger.
While this fate typically only awaits the endrori, the Fallen, and other creatures fully possessed by Darkness, sometimes even good spirits may find themselves in this predicament as well. There are followers of Endoren who know how to perform sacrificial rites that redirect the victim’s spirit to Endroren regardless of its nature. There are even Dark Guides who have the ability to capture wayward spirits and send them down to Endroren. These are just a few of the reasons that having a Spirit Guide perform the last rites is so important.
Some believe that when a Fallen reaches Endroren, he draws the darkness out of them, purifying their spirit. He then proceeds to consume the spirit, damning the person to an eternity of torment.
Doomcallers are members of a religious sect that promote the destruction of Aetaltis as the only way to defeat Endroren. They believe the Enaros did not kill Endroren at the end of the Great War because they were not strong enough, and that fighting and killing the endrori is actually just helping Endroren to gain more power. They believe that in time, Endroren will gain enough strength to break his bonds and will emerge and destroy the Enaros.
To that end, the Doomcallers are actively working to aid in efforts to bring about the Dark Hordes' return. Authorities have repeatedly discovered Doomcallers breaking down the wards that seal the Deeplands or digging new passages into the underworld. By the Doomcallers' misguided logic, the death of the good people of Aetaltis will empower the Enaros, allowing them to finally kill Endroren and eliminate all evil from the world.
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