Friday, July 4, 2014

The Dead, Part 1

One of the things I haven't really spoken of too much is about the dead and the undead. I'm on a vampire kick at the moment. Just read most of a series called The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston and I really really shitty self published Kindle book that I forget the name of. I'm also watching the season seven premiere of True Blood. So yeah, dead things be on my mind and whatnot. But this isn't strictly about undead. It's also about death rituals of The Known World.

The Beast Lands
The tribes of The Beast Lands have a wide variety of death rites to commemorate their dead, with no single practice overshadowing all the others. Some tribes leave their dead out for the great beasts to consume while others lay their dead beneath stones and such. Some tribes use the largest of the trees in The Beast Lands as a sort of living burial plot, leaving their dead within a nest of roots beneath the tree to decompose and feed the tree, and whatever scavengers happen by. Some tribes near the coast cast their dead out in boats, others do the same but use fire tipped arrows to turn the boat into a funeral pyre. Supposedly, some of the more savage Greenskin Abraxen tribes practice cannibalism among their warriors and their enemies in the belief that by devouring a strong foe or a strong battle brother you take on some of their power. 

One specific practice that is well known is that of the Niht Clan in The Beast Lands. Deep in their lands lies a large rock outcropping woven through with caves and passages. The Niht clan bring their dead to these caverns to be placed in niches in the walls. The significance of these necropolis is unknown, but it is well fortified and protected by warriors of the Niht clan.

The Fallen Empire of Man

The Fallen are bound irrevocably to life by the sorcery of The Bleak Tyrant, so they can never truly die. If their physical form is destroyed completely, they exist as incorporeal phantoms. As most Fallen are sorcerers, this does not truly bar them from communicating and interacting with their still corporeal brethren. If their remains are sufficient, they are incorporated into the creation of the Soulless, and they live on physically as part of the Soulless. They have no death rites, because they cannot die, and they are aware of this. Mourning the physical destruction of one of their kind is preposterous.

The Fell Peaks

Among the Fremwighta of The Fell Peaks, there is one practice when there is a death. The deepest most impenetrable ravine is found and the corpse of the fallen is cast into its depths during a quiet, but brief, ceremony. Cave wights are the most well known predator of The Fell Peaks, and they seem drawn more strongly to the scent of dead Glenwighta than they are of those still living. More often than not the funerals of dead Fremwighta are conducted by warriors while the friends and family of loved ones remain behind the strong walls of the Fremwightan enclaves.

The Fell Humans of The Fell Peaks typically burn their fallen on a funeral pyre (assuming those Fell Humans are not immune to fire). Most of the coastal cities and towns cast their dead into the ocean on boats that are then set alight (again, assuming the deceased are not immune to fire). The Fell Humans that dwell beneath the earth in The Fell Peaks typically entomb their dead in family tombs. Depending on the wealth and status of the family, these could be elaborate and well cared for or holes with rocks over the entrance.

Among the enslaved Glenwighta populations of The Fell Peaks, they are not allowed to visibly mourn their dead. Part of their enslavement is a constant vigilance by the Fell Humans to quash anything remotely resembling a culture of their own. 

Being a nation of individuals, there is no set death rite for those that die in the damp passages of Haven. Most frequently it involves the ocean and liquor. A common ritual is to chain a cannonball to the legs of the dead and leave them with a revolver with a single shot left within it. This is a tradition from times when medical knowledge was crummier and no one trusted psionics or sorcery to tell if a dead man was dead. The tradition being that on the chance the fallen brethren wasn't fully dead, he'd have a chance to end himself swiftly or give any deep creature that took an interest in him indigestion before he met his final end.

In Kusseth, death rituals are pretty simple. You're either cremated and cast to the winds, or cremated and put in a box. There aren't graveyards in Kusseth. In a massive city like Kusseth City or a country with such a massive population, space is at a premium. Large tracts of land are devoted to the Abraxen lumber projects, growing the tough potatoes and similar crops, and to giving the massive boar farms room. Kusseth is a meat grinder that can't afford to bury bodies. They'd run out of room. Quick. So typically you get cremated and cast to the wind. Sometimes there is a ceremony, other times not so much. This isn't to say that every body gets accounted for or treated with respect. Cadavers are needed by physicians, bodies rot in the prison mines and on the field of battle, and The Great Trench is fairly bursting with broken corpses hidden and rotting in out of the way places.

In small, tight knit communities there are often walls in the public buildings where small drawers sit with the ashes of an individual, or a family of individuals. Sort of a group plot so to speak. More often than not a family might have an urn or wall kind of out of the way in the house devoted to commemorating the dead and their ancestors.

A lot of Wardens and Greycoats have a ritual to commemorate their fallen brothers, they typically mix just a wee bit of ash into the powder for their ammunition. Not enough to fuck with the rounds and such, as remembering fallen brothers is one thing, fucking yourself is quite another. Bards from the colleges have another type of ritual that involves mixing the ashes of fallen friends into some of the paints and pigments they use for disguise and such. Youth gangs have their own various rituals and such, but general it's just a variation on the Wardens and bards, with the ashes mostly incorporated as warpaint when avenging their fallen members.

But mainly the general procedure in Kusseth is cremation and storage or being cast to the wind. You can try and bury the dead or something, but more often than not, they get exhumed, you get fined, and they get cremated anyway.

The New Empire
One of the tenets of the witch hunters speaks of the purifying nature of fire, and because of the influence witch hunters have had on the culture of The New Empire, dead are laid to rest on a pyre. The belief is that the abberrant and sorcerous will be purified by the flames, preventing them from rising again to torment the living or to pass their taint in some other way. Those that do not bear the marks of sorcery are still committed to the pyre by their loved ones, but this more done to protect them from any foul influences in an effort to allow them to pass from this world peacefully and without any risk or possibility of sorcerous influence. 

The Old Empire

In The Old Empire, death from violence is rare, and the Elduman are immortal. However, when an Elduman dies and it is feasible/desired, his remains are cast into the deserts of The Old Empire where faux flesh and crystalline bones and muscles are scoured away by the knife edged winds and eventually the Elduman becomes part of the desert itself. Those close to the fallen Elduman often observe a few moments of silent contemplation of their loved one's life when they bring them to the desert winds. Those Elduman present join themselves together in telepathic communication, silently relaying their most favored memories to one another. Some Elduman believe that because these memories are shared and because they bear some small psionic imprint of the deceased, Elduman cannot truly die and in some small way they live on as psionic shadows within the minds of their loved ones.

The Plains of Dust
The horsemen of The Plains of Dust inter their dead in cairns along their most well traveled paths through the plains. The dead are stripped of anything of value and wrapped in simple linens before interment to deter looters. While the rocks are placed over the corpse, the chief of the clan reads out the ancestry of the deceased while the rest of the clan honors the dead with their grief or respectful silence. Warriors are laid to rest in a different manner though. When a warrior of The Plains of Dust falls to his foes in battle or is slain by another, his corpse is fed to the war hounds of the clan. The clans believe that in this way, he will still be part of the defense of his kindred and his flesh and blood will spur the hounds to greater ferocity against the foes of the clan. This death rite is a grim affair and done privately by the warrior's closest battle brothers.


The short version of the death rites of Serethnem is that they leave the body where it lies. Little enough tinder in the desert for campfires, let alone for pyres. No space to carry the dead on the wagons to be interred. The long version is that the warriors of the clan, watch over the dead for a night some distance away from the corpse. They watch buzzards and such pick at the corpse. There are a few reasons for this ritual. One is to ensure that the dead are in fact dead, to ensure that corpse is not a shapeshifting nyeklaeon planning to come after the clan once their guard is down. The other is to ensure that no nyeklaeon feed on the dead Sereth and come to develop a taste for them. In ancient times the Briar Kings would punish betrayers by using their sorcery to bind their forms into those of nyeklaeon, their hunting hounds. Once in a great while these hounds would learn the trick to transforming into the form of Sereth for a short time. These shapeshifting nyeklaeon are only a legend in more modern times (which is not to say they do not exist at all), but there may be grandchildren of their children's children among the laughing packs of these modern times. The Sereth guard their corpses from them because they believe that eating the flesh of Sereth may grant certain nyeklaeon the ability to transform into Sereth as their ancestors did.

While the warriors of the clan perform their ritual, the rest of the clan goes about their business. But their camp is quieter than usual. That's the Sereth, stoicism and sobriety. The Sereth of the camp go about the normal business of settling the camp down, but they do so remember the fallen, remembering their strengths and weaknesses and the nature of their death.


The Children of Volung are immortal with caveats and believe that immortality stems from Volung, who is their father, grandfather, great grandfather, and a few more greats in their. They believe because of the strong bonds of family between all of them and their progenitor, that their flesh is sacred. Because they believe this, they eat the flesh of their fallen. Whenever it is feasible, they recover their dead and consume them. They're not savages, so they don't just eat them raw. They cook them up. They put the bones in a stew to get at the marrow. Heart, liver, lungs, brains, eyes, etc. They cook it up and make food out of it. Occasionally a friend or family member will abscond with a bone fragment to make a piece of jewelry out of, or more likely a hilt or handle of some kind for a weapon or tool, but generally it all gets consumed. There are plenty of cases where Children have harvested the bone plates on the ribs of their loved ones and used them to craft a sort of bone scale mail out of it. This is usually meant as a presentation piece for a revered loved one, as bone is rather impractical when dealing with bullets and explosives. Rarely, the bone armor is sorcerously augmented for durability, but this is frowned heavily upon. It is one thing to preserve pieces of the fallen instead of using them to nourish other Children, but quite another to risk such a reliquary of the power of immortality in a fight. If a Child's corpse can't be recovered without risking the lives of more Children, it is preferable to burn it. As much as they value the recovery and consumption of their dead, the Children are not fools, they are unlikely to risk more lives to recover a corpse or ensure it is properly destroyed. That said, their wrath is shockingly murderous and implacable when dealing with graverobbers or other types that steal their fallen.

The Vyanth feed their dead to the silver merenelel trees. There funeral processions are loud and boisterous affairs full of bright colors and loud exclamations. These funeral processions wind through the forests as hours long nomadic parties full of drinking, brawling, gambling, fucking, and so on. There are few moments of sobriety in these affairs, and the first is the pause as the fallen Vyanth is laid at the base of a silver merenelel tree. The second comes as the tree's trunk shakes and it roots squirm beneath the earth and extend a tendril to tear violently at the flesh of the corpse and burrows within and begins to consume the Vyanth. The third, and final, moment of pause comes as the Vyanth pay respect to their fallen loved one before their rite of hedonism begins anew and they wind their way back through the forest to their homes.

In the depths of Whurent the dead are interred in massive tombs, usually among their ancestors. Within these huge stone tombs their remains are housed in stone coffins with the lids carved in their likenesses. These tombs are well cared for and depending on the status of those interred within, often guarded and protected from the few predators and looters that are to be found in the depths.

The Wild Lands
Much like The Beast Lands, the death rites and funerals of The Wild Lands are a hodgepodge of different flavors. No single tradition holds particularly strong sway over the various tribes.  

No comments:

Post a Comment