|A gathering of Xyrh’Rae stood under the falling rain, dressed in black as the group mourned- no, celebrated the life of their lost friend and ally. Unseen to the naked eye as the flames of the pyre lapped at the wrapped body of the fallen elf, a spectral, fatherly hand reached down, taking the hand of the fallen ‘rae. Pulling their spirit from their form gently, he led the elf through the stars to Nomh’Rel’Arann.|
The followers of Droa’Qahna worship the goddess Ayemiel and the god Zyroloth. The two of them encompass the journey of life, and the endless journey of death, representing one path that each and every mortal must walk to reach the end of their journey. Only through the ever watchful eye of Ayemiel may we live a fulfilling and healthy life, and as she passes us off to Zyroloth, may we hope for a peaceful passing and success in our final journey to our divine city of rest within Nomh'Rel’Arann. It is because of these two gods that we are able to enjoy every aspect of life and death. The Followers embed these beliefs within every aspect of their lives, death is no longer a cause for grief or pain; it is a celebration, as your loved one begins the final journey before eternal rest! They take pride in maintaining the ashes of their ancestors, praising the ones that came before them for not only working hard to get their people to where they are today, but for completing the great journey of life and afterlife. Many claim the Followers of Droa’qahna to be strange in their ways; a group that is not keen to enforce their ways on others, and that always seems to appreciate even the simplest parts of life. For our journey is just a gift, an experience given to us by the shepherds who guide us through every step of it, and it would be wrong for us to not view every blessing, every hardship, as a challenge or a gift given to us by the gods.
Ayemiel, the Goddess of Life. Ayemiel works in tandem with Zyroloth to keep the ever-moving stream of life flowing. It is said that she follows you through every step of your life, nursing you as an infant, guiding you in your path as a child, and lifting you up in times of bad health. Ayemiel embodies all of life’s journey, and walks by your side in everything you do. It is rumored that as your life grows closer to its end, you can hear the endearing and supportive whispers of Ayemiel, preparing you for the next step of your journey as she passes you off to her companion, Zyroloth.
Zyroloth, the God of Death. Zyroloth works in unison with his eternal companion Ayemiel. As she guides her people into and through life, he guides the same souls out of Enarion and into the afterlife; to Nomh’Rel’Arann, the afterlife of all followers of the Droa’Qahna. It is rumored that, as your death festival is held, Zyroloth will appear before your awaiting soul and speak with you about your life. As your body is burned, your soul is released and transported to Nomh’Rel’Arann with his grace. It is said Zyroloth will then show your sins to you, and offer you judgement in the form of hefty iron weights affixed to chains which he rests upon your shoulders. Each of your sins causes more of a hindrance on your soul. Zyroloth will then point to a resplendent gemstone city within a nearby cavern and tell you to travel to it. This is the final journey for most honored souls, either succeeding and making it to our glittering city of rest, or failing and doomed to sink below the mire where countless other souls lay and repent for their sins in life.
The Yeiracha (singular: Yeirach) are the religious figureheads of the faith. They embody the values of both Ayemiel and Zyroloth. Guiding the followers of their faith through life, and being sure to properly send them off once they’ve passed. They are knowledgeable of our ancestors and often maintain the urns of our revered Greater Ancestors. These mystic Yeiracha hold blessings from the gods, which allow them to further teach and guide their followers. It is even rumored these dedicated men and women can interact with the ancestors of our past themselves, often found reciting and retelling stories of their visits with the most legendary ancestors. The Followers of Droa’Qahna make a priority of not only worshipping their Shepherds of life and death, but also the people that came before them; their ancestors. Ancestor worship is not only a core pillar of the Followers’ beliefs, but also a pillar of Xyrh’Rae culture as a whole. Our ancestors deserve praise for finishing their journeys well and leaving an enduring example for us to follow.
The status of Arkh’Mora, or Greater Ancestor, is bestowed upon those dark elves who lived great lives which have shaped the history and culture of their people. The current Arkh’Mora’a are: Yom’Chro, the First Yeirach; Sael’Di’Ne’Lukh, the Apothecary; Sho’Ar’Vont, the Hunter; Uir’Ci’Firiin, the Humble; Ru’un’Myr, the Mystic; Zho’Khaein, the Stalwart Protector; and Lla’Ghraia’a, the Loving. Each of these ancestors once walked among us and, after their deaths, ascended as beings of a higher order. The dark elves worship these paragons by erecting shrines in their honor, observing feasts and holy days in their names, offering up fervent prayer for their favor, making pilgrimage to holy sites associated with them, studying their stories and teachings, and imitating their virtues in hopes of growing more like them and earning the condescension of their will made manifest.
The Exiled Ancestors are the souls of men and women who committed unspeakable sins in their lifetime. After they’ve died and taken their final journey to Nomh’Rel’Arann, their sins are judged by Zyroloth himself. These are the souls of Xyrh’Rae that sank into the mire, living an eternity within the muck city beneath our holy home. Often, you may come across a name within a chronicled piece of Xyrh’Rae history, recounting a tale of a man or woman so cruel, they were damned to spend eternity in such a place. They are considered the opposites of our Great Ancestors, taught and spoken of throughout history as a way to teach the younger generations of what not to be.
In the main room of an ordinary home of the dark elf district, in a hollowed-out recess in the cave wall, a dark elf woman kneels in fervent prayer before a blackened obelisk with a small compartment housing a little clay urn. A small altar rests before the obelisk, holding smoking incense, a lit candle, a few scrolls, and a lovely blue flower. “Dearest Mohn’Itharr,” she whispers sweetly, before kissing her hand and resting it briefly on the urn. In the Temple, a Yeirach tends to a whole room of such obelisks, only more decoratively carved with costlier urns behind locked, cage-like doors of intricate designs in their cozy, little compartments. Their altars host all manner of offerings: weapons, gold, wine, food, books of poetry, copies of scripture, flowers, silks, crystals, and so on. “Each urn,” he explains to a young boy who follows him around the sanctuary attentively, “houses the ashes of an Arkh’Mora. This one belongs to Uir’Ci’Firiin, the Humble.” The boy perks a brow at the simple clay vessel depicting a plainly clothed Xyrh seated under a giant mushroom. “Why is his urn so cheap compared to the others, Yeirach? Was he the worst of the Ancestors?” Asked the boy. The shaman-priest merely chuckled and patiently repeated “Uir’Ci’Firiin, the Humble, be’ahn. He would’ve hated to be housed in anything finer.”
The Ancestral Plane
"From everything to nothing at all, the beliefs of us have never let the Xyrh'rae down"
The Nomh’Rel’Arann --or Holy Home-- is the final resting place of the Followers of Droa’Qahna: an endless, otherworldly system of caves lit by undying, luminescent mushroom forests, glittering veins of every precious ore, and vast deposits of every sort of gem and crystal. Neither sun nor moon is needed there, as the multicolored, supernatural light of these marvels is always bright enough to illuminate that whole world from the deepest ravines to the highest ceilings; and the ravines are indeed deep, and the ceilings indeed high! At the same time, however, it remains soft enough to rest by, that no eye, however dazzled, could ever be irritated by its effulgence. Carved into the walls and pillars of this magnificent realm are the many mansions which house the souls of the honored dead. Jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst, jade, diamond, ruby, gold, silver, onyx, marble, quartz, granite, and every sort of gem, ore, and beautiful stone both known and unknown comprise the lovely homes of the Nomh’Rel’Arann; windowed with panes of translucent crystal, and mirrored from below by glistening pools and gently murmuring rivers of the clearest, coolest water imaginable, which fill the wide halls and high domes of the infinite caverns with their sweet music. There is, however, another side of this wondrous realm; an underworld of sorts.
Outside the shining gates which guard the many-splendored chambers and shimmering pillars of the Holy Home, sits a thick, reeking mire. It is through this boundless pit of muck that the souls of the dead must pass in order to reach their final destination. Before the Mire, Zyroloth sits enthroned in his judgement seat. When a soul reaches his throne and stands before him, he shows him every sin he’s ever committed, and manifests each one as an iron weight attached to a heavy chain. For every virtuous deed the soul performed in life, a weight is subtracted. When the final total is measured out, the weights are fastened about the shoulders of the deceased. Should he make it across the Mire, his chains shatter, his weights crash to the ground and crumble to dust, the filth is burned away in the holy light of the radiant gates, and a new robe of deep blue, royal purple, brilliant scarlet, or whatever other colors the soul may love most, is bestowed upon him. Should his sins be too many, however, and his virtues too few, then the weight of his trespasses will stay his feet, and he will sink beneath the Mire into the Muck City below. There he will spend his eternity in weeping, regret, and repentance. Such is both the kindness and justice of the gods.