The Harbinger, the Courier, and the Deliverer
Upon the death of a family member, Humans and Elves in the northern areas of Lathai will waste no time in burying or otherwise hiding away the body. Many people from these areas believe in what is known as the Harbinger and Courier. The harbinger is said to be in the form of a Centaur, but with the body of a scaleless dragon, the body of a man, but the head of a horse's skull, which has one glowing eye and one black eye. He is said to carry a scythe, which he uses to carve the soul from the body. He is said to work with the Courier, who takes the soul of the dead and carries it far from the body, ruining any chance of it making its journey to a temple of Isyn and Alerah to begin traveling to the afterlife. The Courier is said to be a giant owl with the night sky in its eyes. Legend has it that it gave one eye to the Harbinger, and had its other eye stolen by Isyn to give her the power of prophecy. As such, it can only follow its partner to the body of the deceased, and strives to antagonize Isyn. The fear is that if your soul cannot make it to the afterlife, that you will wander the world for all eternity, formless as a spirit. These spirits can be sympathetic, or can be said to be filled with rage at unfinished business or driven insane by existing in the world but being unable to interact with it, which branch into many different ghost stories. By covering or burying the body, you are protecting the deceased from this fate, as the Harbinger is guided by his eye, and the Courier cannot dig. The grave need not be deep, only enough to cover the body until nightfall. Only when the Deliverer uncovers the body can the soul begin its journey to the afterlife. The Deliverer is said to dig up graves and guide the deceased's soul to the afterlife. The Deliverer is said to look like a fox with several tails, in which it cradles the dead's soul as it travels.
Many years ago, the north suffered from a plague that could pass from the bodies of the deceased to the living, so they began to bury bodies in shallow graves because they could not spend enough time with the body to dig a deeper grave. This lead to predation by wolves, boar, and other burrowing animals. Foxes, who were less aggressive and smaller than these other animals, usually cleaned up scraps, but were seen by the family of the deceased in the morning.
Variations & Mutation
The addition of the Harbinger is more recent, during the wars with Centaurs, during which Humans and Elves observed their usual views on death. They soon began to be associated with death, from which the Harbinger stemmed. Further north, the fox is usually referred to as a white, dwarf Cerealis Hound who carries the soul in her mouth.
The HarbingerThe Harbinger is a relatively new figure to this myth. When Elves and Humans first arrived in Nephemir, they saw that Centaurs exhumed the skeletons of their deceased long after their death. This practice seemed ghoulish to the newcomers to the nation, and as war broke out among them, introduced a figure largely resembling a Centaur. This only further demonized Centaurs considering that humanoids largely believed that Centaurs were heretics obsessed with necromancy.
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