Final Birth Day
He awakened to the final day of his life, feeling a sense of peace, and joy was in his heart
The BeginningIn the cold and sometimes frozen northern reaches of the realm Acaria, the Adhani people have lived their lives without much contact with the wider world. This is partly due to the remoteness, and harshness, of their location - but it is also through choice. The Adhani worship gods of the mountains that are on the doorsteps of their settlements. When each new baby is born it is taken to the local Elder who conducts a ceremony where, through them, a god announces their willingness to watch over the newborn from that point on for the rest of its life. Each of the gods has a number of holy days devoted to them. All of these take place in the deepest winter months. When a newborn is chosen by one of the gods for its protection and guidance, the baby is given one of the their holy days as its true birth day. As such every Adhani has a birth day during the same two months of the year. Those with the same given birth day form a special bond that goes beyond normal friendship and even family ties. They spend most of their spare time with each other, help and support each other, and would lay their lives down to protect their birth-friends. The older will mentor the younger through trying times as they grow and develop. They act as confidants so each can discuss their most personal feelings without hesitation or fear of judgement.
The Harshness of LifeLife is hard for the Adhani, particularly during the winter months - but their home is holy to them and they will never leave for the warmer lands to the south. They have long recognized that in order for their communities to survive each member must be productive. As a person ages, their productivity eventually diminishes and would disappear altogether. At some point during this final phase of life, the gods will Call for those that they watch over as their next birth day approaches - Calling them to their side for the rest of time. They speak through the Elder, who subsequently summons the individual to inform them of their god's Calling.
"My birth-friends! I have wonderful news - I have been Called"
The CelebrationsWhen the Calling is received their closest birth-friends organize a series of events to celebrate their final days before passing on to the next phase of their existence - their time with the gods. Over a five day period, the Called are given feasts and festivities, games and performances, and many many hours spent in the company of their birth-friends. They sit around open fires lit in the center of the settlement and remember their times together, how they laughed and how they cried together. Each birth-friend recites their own eulogy in honor of their beloved friend. These say how special they are to them, and how their life has enriched those of the whole community, leaving them in no doubt as to the value of their life. There is a great sadness to be saying farewell, but these final days and moments are built on a deep sense of joy and thankfulness. As their final night of living draws to a close, birth-friends encircle the Called and place flowers and gifts around them whispering their final goodbyes with tears tumbling down their faces. As this is done the fires begin to flicker and die, a reflection of the closing hours of the life of the Called.
"Thank you my friends. Your words and your gifts honor me. My god willing, part of me will live on in your hearts, so I will not truly die."
The Final DayOn the final morning of their lives - their final birth day - all those that have been Called are collected by the Elder. They dress in robes of pure white, specially made to shield them from the bitter cold of the winter, and walk through the settlement. People stand along the route and occasionally individuals will meet the eyes of the Called - a silent final farewell. Once out of the settlement they turn north to the mountains.
Steps to the Place of the GodsAll the Called from all settlements meet at the base of the mountain known simply as The Steps - no words are exchanged between them or the Elders. Carved steps lead upwards. The Elders give them a final quick meal and a tonic to help them with the ascent. The tonic gives them strength and sends waves of warmth through their bodies. Now ready, they start to climb. After many hours of the winding climb, they find themselves on the other side of the mountain. They reach a ledge and before them, they see the awe-inspiring vastness of the northern icy reaches now two and a half thousand feet below them.
Take FlightThe tonic, now at its fullest effect, means none of the Called feel any ill effects from the arduous climb, and time itself seems to run very slowly. They feel the greatest sense of well-being they have ever felt and are ready to meet their god. After a few moments of prayer, they link hands and prepare to fly upwards to the realm of the awaiting gods. They walk forward, step over the precipice, and begin their flight.
The exact age that an individual is Called varies.
But for each person, it comes at a time when the strain of maintaining a productive life is moving beyond their physical strength.
At this point, the gods show mercy and Call them to rest.
The Elder is the only person who is not Called. They die in their settlement and are laid to rest in a sacred burial ground. Before their death, they select a new Elder to follow them.
It is said that the Elders do not join with the gods upon their death - this is their sacrifice for leading the communities of the Adhani - the price they pay for old age.
The GodsThe Adhani worship many gods. Each god has an area of influence and they receive the prayers of the Adhani asking for mercy and bounty. The highest level of the pantheon are: Adhai - Father of all the gods and supreme ruler of the pantheon
Cetune - Mother of the gods and wife to Adhai
Viani - God of Law
Edais - God of the Elements
Anja - Goddess of Animals
Doulla - Goddess of Fertility The other gods are sons and daughters, each with a specific aspect of life to tend to.