The Soul's Journey
A description of the cycle of souls built by the Spirit Kings, and the journeys of the mortal souls that are bound within it
An Independent CycleWhile the cycle of souls as most mortals across the Planescape know it was born from the death of Atlas, the Overdeity and eventually found and forged by The Yema not long after the creation of reality, the Cycle of The Spirit Kings and of Zheng-Kitar is a remnant of a much older system - one established in the waning days of the early times of reality, where only The Old Gods and The Spirit Kings roamed the infant reality that was yet unformed. In those days following the death of the Overdeity whose essence birthed The Yema and the Planescape, The Platinum Dragon, master and leader of The Yema, took the legendary Life River(Also known as the Lifestream to some) that had formed naturally in the wake of the Overdeity Atlas's death - a natural, wondrous river of life that spread throughout the newly formed reality, carrying souls of the dead and all manner of life to all corners of the planescape - and shattered it into form a more controllable that The Yema would come to name The River of Souls. This river, born from the shattered remains of the Life River, natural thing of beauty born of the Overdeity's essence, was shaped by The Platinum Dragon to purposefully exclude the domain of The Old Gods and The Spirit Kings - the Elemental Planes - to ensure the souls of reality's creatures would flow naturally into their grip. Isolated and fractured, the Life River and the now-dying cycle that once sustained the natural world and all of the life essence throughout reality, would have collapsed and sundered after the creation of the River of Souls, were it not for The Spirit Kings who yet remained alive after the death of The Old Gods. Wielding their awesome and mighty power even as The Yema created and formed life in the reality that now bent almost exclusively to their will, The Spirit Kings saved what remained of the Life River and all the creatures who depended on it to survive, such as Cyclops, Kami, and countless others to stabilize the Life River and uphold the cycle, as broken as it was, for the sake of those that followed the ways of the Sapphire Elves, The Spirit Kings, and The Old Gods. Even in the wake of Zheng-Kitar's extinction at the hands of The Yema and the subsequent Advent of the Spirit Kings, the weakened Life River endured even as nearly all surviving worshippers of The Old Gods and The Spirit Kings were destroyed, ensuring that even into the modern day the lands of Zheng-Kitar and those who dwell upon it, as well as those who worship The Spirit Kings, Sapphire Elves, and The Old Gods have a place to journey to upon their death.
Path of SoulsAll who are born on Zheng-Kitar and/or trace their roots back to it in some way have their souls bound to the Life River and the Cycle of The Spirit Kings - only the grandest of The Yema's blasphemous rituals can shatter this binding and allow a traitorous soul to enter the River of Souls controlled by their own insidious hands. Inversely, only the grandest and mightiest of rituals known to The Spirit Kings and their most potent followers can break the bonds on the soul of one born outside the lands of Zheng-Kitar to free them from their bindings to The Yema's vile River of Souls and re-tether them to the Life River that flows throughout Zheng-Kitar and the various other domains of The Spirit Kings across reality. Below are described the various paths the souls of those tethered to the Life River of The Spirit Kings and of Zheng-Kitar undergo at various points in their lives.
BirthUpon their birth, monsters and creatures alike are imparted with sentience and life by the grace of the Great Lifestream, which delivers freshly cleansed souls and spirits into the newlyborn who require them - though in the case of Monsters and other beasts who occasionally form spontaneously(Such as Lamia Broodguards, who spontaneously form when the birth of a Lamia Alpha is imminent), these spirits and/or souls are formed at the same time their bodies are given form, birthed directly from the Lifesteam as they are. In the case of races who birth live young, the topic of when exactly the newborn recieves enough "essence" from the LIfestream to be truly called Sentient and possessing of souls is a hotly debated topic - but typically happens around when they are born.
DeathUpon their death, a handful of different things can happen depending on the creature in question - in the case of beasts, animals, and other nonintelligent and nonsentient flora and fauna, their spirits and essences are returned to the Life River, their meager souls and spirits simply returned to the surrounding area to live on forever within the fields of grass, reeds, trees, rocks, and other animals and beasts to eventually help give life to other similar beings. Because their souls and spirits are so meager and small, they are unable to withstand a full journey within the Life River as other intelligent or sentient creatures are, and thus simply return to nature in a beautiful but simple manner. In the case of sentient and/or intelligent creatures, their souls hardy enough to endure a lengthy journey within the Life River, upon their death are slowly brought out of their mortal shells and into the everflowing currents of the Lifestream, where they journey towards the Tenfold Gates to receive judgement before The Spirit Kings. However, in the case of creatures such as undead or in cases where a given spirit or soul has a weighty amount of grudges, sins, or other negative burdens, the souls and spirits of such creatures are often unable to be lifted out of their corporeal shells and leave the mortal world behind, weighed down with sin and negative emotions as they are, and often thus become undead - creatures bound to undeath through the sins and failings they had in life. Though other creatures can sometimes perform similar duties, the Kami work diligently to prevent this - sheparding souls out of their corporeal forms and into the Liferiver by cleansing them of their sins and negative emotions as best they can, though even they are not infallible in this regard.
Journey along the Life RiverAfter their death, the souls and spirits of the departed are ferried along within the Lifestream - submerged within its infinite, all-encompassing eddies as their sense of self is slowly eroded and their essences softened and melded with the Planescape as a whole. These spirits, slowly made to understand and meld with the great Lifestream as they travel within its rushing, invisible waters, commonly see their lives flash before their eyes during this stage of their journey into the afterlife as they become one with universe, subject to some kind of great cosmic awakening in their final moments. This journey, while important and unable to be made by lesser spirits such as those of normal beasts and animals, is not unpleasant - one's sense of self begins to expand and the moments one spends in the river stretches into infinity, witnessing one's life on repeat during the travel to the Tenfold Gates. Notably, it is during this phase that those who were bound to the continent of Zheng-Kitar, its Lifestream, or its Cycle but did not ascribe to its faiths or beliefs - agnostics, atheists, or those who saw both The Yema and The Spirit Kings as unworthy of their time and faith - are simply returned to the Lifestream and reality at large, their essences and spirits repurporsed similar to beasts and animals, absorbed into the blanket of Atlen(Mana) that encompasses all things and returned to the land to foster growth and new life that might be born from their essence, in a form of pseudo-reincarnation. This is a notable departure from the eventual fate of such creatures in The River of Souls formed by The Yema, where they are sent to hellish punishment planes or banished to endless expanses of nonexistence such as Limbo.
Judgement at the Tenfold GatesWith one's arrival at the Tenfold Gates, the souls of the departed are plucked from the river and placed before Takamagahara(Not to be confused with the criminal organization Takamagahara), the eternal judge of those who would pass beyond the gates. A being crafted by The Spirit Kings and possibly even The Old Gods themselves to stand guard and judge those who would pass beyond the Gates, Takamagahara sets true and final judgement upon a creature for the deeds, actions, beliefs, and the entirety of a given creature's life, thus deciding its penance(if any) that it must undergo as it passes into the Afterlife. Unlike the River of Souls established by The Yema, there are no designated destinations such as The Nine Hells, The Abyss, and others where sinning souls are sent to be tormented for all eternity - instead, as the concept of Rebirth is central to Zheng-Kitaran culture, this judgement affects the nature of a given creature's reincarnation during their next journey through the cycle. Once a spirit has been judged by Takamagahara, it is then passed onto Omnus, The Ferryman to be carried onto their designated "afterlife".
Omnus, The FerrymanOnce a given creature has been judged by Takamagahara, it is handed over to Omnus, The Ferryman to be carried beyond the Ten Gates which are said to represent aspects of the psyche, spirit, mind, and body which are ritualistically cleansed as a creature passed through each Gate in turn. During this time, Omnus is said to keep these souls company during this journey, acting as a guide and comforting companion during this time to help ease them through the transition into the afterlife. If, for any reason, the spirit of the deceased is unable to accept the trials of the Tenfold gates, their souls is prevented from reaching perfect balance and cannot reach true and perfect harmony - often leading to spiritual collapse, or preventing the spirit from truly entering the afterlife and meaning they may return to the material as a ghost.
- Gate of Purification: Dealing with the cleansing of the soul, this gate primarily serves the vital role of preparing the soul to decouple from the mind and physical form, cleansing it of its past sins and preparing it for re-injection and reincarnation into the Cycle. A vital first step to ensure a safe transition and separation of the deceased's mind, body, and soul.
- Gate of Earth: This gate deals with survival, and is blocked by fear - the souls of the deceased must learn to let go of their fear as well as their own mortality, accepting their reincarnation and penitence for any sins they may have committed during their lives.
- Gate of Water: This gate deals with pleasure, and is blocked by guilt - the souls of the deceased are confronted by their failings in life, and must learn to accept them and move on from their guilt to pass through this gate and into the afterlife.
- Gate of Fire: This gate deals with willpower, and is blocked by shame - the souls of the deceased are confronted by their shameful thoughts and all that they are ashamed to admit, and must accept them all as valid aspects of their essences to move on into the afterlife.
- Gate of Air: This gate deals with love, and is blocked by grief - the souls of the deceased must learn to admit, accept, and overcome their traumas, sadnesses, and griefs, accepting that such things are a part of their soul and mind forever and will be reborn anew alongside of them. In doing so, the spirit passes the Gate of Air and can move on into the afterlife.
- Gate of Sound: This gate deals with truth, and is blocked by lies - the souls of the deceased must accept the lies they have told and admit them, and most important must learn to admit and move past the lies they have told themselves during their lives. To enter the halls of the afterlife, one cannot lie about who they are - only acceptance can open the Gate of Sound.
- Gate of Light: This gate deals with Insight, and is blocked by Illusion - the souls of the deceased must accept that the greatest illusion of the world is that of separation; things many think to be separate and different are in fact one and the same. To pass this gate, one must accept everything is connected and divisions are thus meaningless - attaining emotional enlightenment and ultimate insight to enter the Afterlife.
- Gate of Void: This gate, last of the elemental gates, deals with Pure Cosmic Energy, and is blocked by Earthly Attachments - the souls of the deceased must fully leave behind all attachments they garnered during their lives. This gate, ultimately, is the hardest to pass and is a barrier many fail to successfully understand - unwilling or unable to give up their attachments to their mortal lives. Once accepted, however, the souls of the deceased are fully transformed into the elemental "outsider" essence they will eventually become, and become a part of the vast and infinite cosmic energy ocean from which they were born.
- Gate of Lethe: This gate serves the equally vital role of fully cleansing the soul of the deceased of all of their memories from their mortal lives - only a scant few relics of their lives remains, while all others are burned away and recorded in the Lifestream for all time.
- Gate of Detachment: This gate serves the ultimate and final purpose of detaching the soul of the deceased from their body and their mind; The body will burn away and form the foundation of an Elemental on the Elemental Plane they will reside on, while their mind will take hold in that new Elemental Body to guide it, while their soul continues on without it to begin the journey anew.
The AfterlifeOnce a given creature has fully passed beyond the Tenfold Gates, they are bound to the Elemental Plane they most closely aligned themselves to in life - for those who directly worshipped an Elemental Saint or Elemental Lord, they will head to the Elemental Plane that their patron resides upon, while others of a more generalized faith will be assigned based on their personality and experiences throughout their lifetimes. Once the deceased takes root on their assigned elemental plane, their mind inhabits their new form - the body of an elemental of a varying power depending on how strong and faithful they were during their lifetime. These elementals, while mostly unremembering of their mortal lives, do carry vestiges of the creatures they once were in their mannerisms, personality, and so on - and serve in the courts of the Elemental Lords and Saints who govern over the Elemental Plane they now reside upon. These elementals exist in perpetuity as outsiders, but no longer contain souls - which have long since left their bodies behind to continue on in the Lifestream.
A New Journey, Into InfinityWith the bodies and minds of the deceased left behind in the Elemental Planes, the souls continue on into the Lifestream to be reincarnated once more, accordingly to their previous lives - those with good karma are given more favorable reincarnations or sometimes even allowed to choose their new forms, while those with negative karma are given less favorable reincarnations. In either case, these souls dwell within the Lifestream forever in some form or fashion - while some may reincarnate in short order and others in longer order, the memories and experiences of those who have lived and died remain within the Lifestream forever, even after their souls have moved on into new existences. In this way, the Lifestream serves as a permanent, independent record of everything that has lived and died since the dawn of time - a beautiful, naturally functioning ecosystem of the living and dead which so many creatures such as Kami depend upon to live, and so many others rely upon to be born, to die, and for every step in between.
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The Cosmology of the World of Ea, and the Planescape that surrounds it.
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The six basic elements of reality and what they represent to the people of Zheng-Kitar.
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The Origins of Kinetic Magic
The magic of the Sapphire Elves, capable of channeling the raw building blocks of reality.
The Origins of Magic
The origins of magic, and the different ways it can be utilized and mastered.
The Soul's Journey
A description of the cycle of souls built by the Spirit Kings, and the journeys of the mortal souls that are bound within it.