Death and the Afterlife in Emaxus
Though Emaxus is not grimdark, nor even dark fantasy (though it could be, under the right lens), death is still very present. In Emaxus' history and in its current times, death, war, and legitimate apocalypse has been present and likely will continue to be in the future. Thus, understanding how death -- and the afterlives that come after, or don't -- works in Emaxus and greater Yophas is an important aspect of the world.
DeathDeath in Emaxus can come quick, slow, in destiny, or out-of-the-blue. Whatever way it happens, a chain reaction immediately begins when the body is killed. The First Law of Animancy in the modern world holds that the soul lingers in the body for a minute after true death. It can be difficult to tell when, exactly, true death occurs, so the soul can actually linger for longer than a minute after apparent death if the person dying isn't actually dead yet.
It is because of the First Law that resurrection becomes more difficult the longer that someone has been dead. Scholars believe that the soul's journey, in normal cases, is as follows:
Necromancy and the First Law of AnimancyBecause the First Law holds that the soul fully leaves the body after a minute, only to be returned by specific, powerful resurrection spells, there are certain schools of thought that believe necromancy can actually be a useful, humane school of magic. Those who feel this way hold that, so long as the necromancer observes the First Law of Animancy and waits at least a minute -- though preferably longer -- to reanimate a corpse, then they aren't actually doing anything wrong. The body no longer possesses a soul at that point, and is thus a tool to be used; no different than fire or wind, these thinkers believe that necromancy is a valuable school of magic that could be used to solve labor issues and for fighting wars. These schools of thought are in the sharp minority, and corpse-based necromancy of any kind is still illegal across most of Emaxus and greater Yophas. But, they do give food for thought.
- For one minute, the soul lingers in the body. It is unknown why this occurs. Resurrection, at this stage, is merely returning the body to life. No or little animancy is required. Necromancy, at this stage, traps the soul in a purgatory existence of observing their body and whatever it does, but having no control.
- After that point, the soul travels to Iannathae -- or Nathrivox, if it has been tainted, cursed, or otherwise influenced in an evil way -- where it is elevated to a being of pure anima (it is at this stage that the soul gains the value of currency among devils). To resurrect someone at this stage is to manipulate the lunar-arcane and return the soul to the body, and then reanimate the body. This stage takes about ten days.
- Past the first ten days, the soul then travels to whatever afterlife it is destined for. The greatest feats of animancy can return a soul from their afterlife, but that is incredibly difficult. To do so is to wrench them free from whatever bindings or planar positions they have been put in or adopted.
The AfterlivesThe afterlives of Yophas are numerous and incredibly varied. There are entire planes devoted to the afterlives, and beyond even the billions of souls that have gone to them, there are other afterlives farther afield: those that are particularly niche, or perhaps only effect a certain group or individuals. A comprehensive (but not exhaustive) of such places can be found below. They are listed in order of how common of an afterlife they are, though some positions may be up for debate depending on the afterlife and the time period.
Laithna, the Winter of DeathRealm of eternal winter and the resting place of the dead, Laithna was the home plane of Laianath the Gravetender and where she oversaw the interment of the vast majority of souls. In her absence, Laithna still serves its function impeccably: short of any other intervening circumstances, all things are destined to end up in Laithna. Creatures with souls, things that can die, go to Laithna at the end of their soul-journey. They are ferried down on the light of Luna to rest among Laithna's infinite snow fields and frigid forests, frozen in peace for all eternity. Those who have been resurrected from Laithna speak of a feeling of bliss, a cold that envelopes and soothes. Those who are sent to Laithna with evil in their souls are not granted such peace. They are locked in ice, yes, but they are frozen as skeletal warriors to reinforce the ever-growing Frozen Legion of souls that serve eternal penance by defending Laithna from those powerful malefactors that would seek to use the endless souls within for ill.
Iduran, the Hellish RealmsDespite being Hell in Yophas, Iduran is not the guaranteed punishment of all "evil" souls. In fact, the only way a soul can go to Iduran is if it entered into an infernal contract. Granted, because of that very rule, the Iduranith devils have figured out plenty of ways to trick mortal souls into signing away their afterlives. The bulk majority of souls that end up in Iduran are converted into fodder: devilish foot soldiers, bureaucrats and line workers, and, the worst fate, used as soul energy. Those souls that are particularly powerful or signed a great contract tend to gain a better path, perhaps as a higher-ranking devil or a wealthy infernal merchant.
Isathra, the Fields of GloryGreat warriors, chosen champions, and powerful clerics all have a chance to earn their place among the boreal forests and snow-capped mountains of Isathra. Anyone who dies a glorious and honorable death and/or led an honorable and skillful life is sent to the forests of Isathra before any other afterlife. If they can survive the beasts within and find their way to the Stormforged Legions, then they join their vaunted ranks to train, battle, and feast until the day they may be called upon again. If they fail, then they are sent to whatever other afterlife they would have been destined for. And, for the true Champions of Isael, there exists a process to earn a rebirth and resurrection. Legends say that these champions are struck by a bolt of lightning at their time of death, their soul immediately being ferried to the shores of Isathra. There, the Eight Trials of Isael begin. If they complete them all, then they earn the right to be reforged in lightning and brought back to life.
Sylthereth, the Verdant ParadiseSylthereth actually has two afterlives within it: a true afterlife for those who earn the favor (or the ire, in some cases) of the fey, and an "afterlife" for most elves in which their soul goes to the hallowed trees of Sylureth and reform into new people to be reincarnated. The former is similar to an Iduranith afterlife, though typically much less punishing, in which the soul travels to Sylthereth and is reborn as a fey in one of the many courts and counties of the Syltherethian fey. The latter is how the reincarnation of elves actually functions. Elven souls that aren't disconnected from the reincarnation cycle (i.e., not Dathanra or Lithanra) travel to the floating forest of Sylureth upon death, where they are held within the sacred trees until they are one of the three hundred souls to be reincarnated that decade.
Special CasesThere are a few special cases for certain races and/or cultures that should be enumerated here. There are, of course, many more niche cases than even these.
Dathanra (Drow) AfterlifeWhen the Dathanra were corrupted and enslaved during the Reckoning, Laaelum consigned them to forever be outcast from their kin: she severed them from the rebirth of Sylureth. Even those Dathanra who escaped their race's horrid fate were caught in Laaelum's terrifying soul severance. Now, Dathanra are still reborn, but in a much more horrifying way: their souls are sent to Ix'akroth, where they are reborn into a demon until they die, at which point they are reincarnated. It is exceptionally rare for any Dathanra to remember their soul's stint(s) on the fields of Marzak and in the crags and tunnels of Ix'akroth, but it happens all the same. Perhaps these periods of demonic existence leave their mark on the souls of the Dathanra, cursing them to slowly and perpetually fall deeper into the corruption the Obsidian Lords began.