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How to bury an elf

Construction has come to a halt since we found the bloody grave. Honestly, how were we supposed to know it was there? There wasn’t a marker or anything. We send for a proper priest to bless the remains and relocate them. Poor sod was probably an elf, so I have no clue whether he would even appreciate it. But all our elven workers refuse to even return to the construction side as long as the grave is still open, so we can hardly ask them, can we now? Cowards, the lot of them. I wonder who the bastard was, that they wrapped him in chains before they buried him…
— Found among old reports belonging to the guild of stonemasons in Drakensland
 
“When they bury you, they’ll write left and right on your socks!”
— Somewhat humorous elven insult

History

Ages ago, so the elves believe, the long journey the afterlife was not so terrible. There were still gods back then and among them was a particularly kind one; a god of luck and travel, of the stars and life’s small victories. He loved the elves fiercely and cherished every good and noble deed, every bit of their happiness. And in defeat, when the worst had happened and an elf had been slain, he was the first to welcome their soul, to console them and dry their tears. He was the one who would guide the souls of dead to the Far Lands beyond the reach of sun and moon, where there is nothing but peace. With him, the journey was light and its trials were kind.   The gods are dead, now and between the stars there is only silence. There is no more guide. Every soul that wants to reach the Far Lands has to find the way on its own. But the journey is fraught with many dangers, full of demons trying to lead the traveling soul astray. Those that get lost become wandering ghosts. As a result, the general consensus of the elves along the Volnic and Grey Sea seems to be:
“Better come prepared.”

Execution

Elven bury their dead and the graves are almost always unmarked. In the vicinity of bigger elven settlements, a certain meadow or part of a forest might be designated as a traditional burial spot, but those locations are not binding. Most often, an elf will be buried close to the place they died (especially if they died on a journey or in battle), as transporting a body too far before burial is said to confuse the soul of the departed. The graves themselves tend to be very deep and, if possible, hidden – this is to deter grave robbers.   The graves are considered somewhat liminal spaces: From the depth of them, the soul begins it's long and arduous journey to the idyllic Far Lands. The departed is believed to be equipped with whatever they were buried with. As a result, elves tend to be buried with:
  • their weapons
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  • tools (for climbing, navigating, making fire, etc)
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  • copious amounts of food and drink, either real or symbolic
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  • talismans and protective amulets, meant to deter demons
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  • clay tablets with well-wishes or instructions
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  • small figurines of helpful animals such as dogs or horses
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  • whatever else is deemed necessary or helpful to the deceased
The elves of Vilderland tend go a step further and will kill actual animals and bury them with with the deceased. In case of a high-ranking noble or the Queen of Vilderland herself, their servants will be buried with them in order to aid them on their journey. (Sometimes even voluntarily.)   There is a somewhat humorous stereotype among elves that the more of an idiot you were in life, the more grave goods you will receive – since you apparently need all the help you can get! This especially applies to the clay tablets with the instructions.   The exact nature of these instructions, as well as the talismans and tools tend to vary from elven community to community, since there is no clear consensus on what the journey entails, exactly. Every elven settlement has it's own horror stories.   Being buried without the proper grave goods is something many elves fear. As result, elves that embark on a dangerous journey or go to war often carry a small satchel with talismans and some basic tools with them. Just in case.   Burying somebody without any grave goods is never done lightly and is often a brutal act of revenge. Burying somebody and actively impairing them by blinding them or chaining them is borderline unforgivable for most elves.

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