Death and the afterlife

When someone dies, the soul is released and (usually) immediately begins its journey to Zannara where it will rest in a peaceful yet dreamless sleep.

The Journey

For a soul to achieve this rest, it must first make the journey across the Ethereal Plane. This it the realm of spirits that have not passed on and is the counterpart to the material plane. During this phase of the journey the soul faces the danger of becoming lost. It could end up spending untold time wandering the Ethereal Plane confused and frustrated. It could also be captured by nefarious necromancers and the like, who would try to utilize the soul in the creation of undead and other constructs. Lastly, the soul (especially corrupt ones) could manifest as an undead such as a ghost or wraith, without the interference of a necromancer.

The next phase of the journey takes the soul through the Astral Plane. This is where the real danger begins as it is the hunting grounds of various demons, devils, and other agents of the Abyss who actively harvest souls for their masters. If a soul making the journey is captured by a harvester demon, also called a Soul Reaper, it is held and slowly tortured, corrupting it bit by bit. Once the demon has its quota, it will return to the Abyss and there the souls are held and corrupted further. Evil souls succumb quickly, while righteous ones can hold out for a long time. Once the process is complete, the souls are often merged to form more demons. This process strips them of all individuality and destroys their memories, making it impossible for them to every be resurrected. Most souls are not immediately merged however, and spend untold time as mindless slaves to demonic masters.

There are also various creatures that roam the Astral Plane. Some of these beings, while not aligned with either Zanara or the Abyss, can pose a great danger for they can feed on souls, devouring those they capture, making resurrection nearly impossible.

Once a soul makes it to Zanara (a journey that can take months, or even a year), it will rest the Dreamless Sleep. Non-evil souls, especially good ones, find the sleep eternally peaceful, while the wicked could be forever restless and uneasy.

In Zannara, righteous and/or powerful souls might be given a choice to become an Angel or Archon. If they accept, they will be merged with others to form these powerful Celestials. The process will strip them of their previous individuality, but often some memories of the souls that made the Archon remain. Like their demonic counterparts, this process is irreversible and the souls once merged cannot be un-merged and cannot be resurrected as the individuals they once were.

Aiding the Deceased

The journey of the dead is fought with peril, but it can be aided by mortals. A simple ritual performed on the recently deceased can speed the soul’s trip though the Ethereal Plane, and help keep it hidden from hunters on the Astral Plane. It can still be found and corrupted, but its chances of making it to Zannara are greatly increased.

Also, the Warrior Archons of Zannara actively hunt the Hunters of Souls in the Astral Plane, and aid any spirits they come across to find Zanara. Many battles between powerful forces are fought over the souls of simple folk.

Resurrecting the Dead

As long as a soul is intact (it has not be devoured by astral creatures or merged with other souls), it is possible for it to be resurrected. This usually happens when the soul is still making their journey to Zanara — for it takes powerful magic to bring back someone dead long enough to be at rest. Often this process, while difficult, will go according to plan, and the soul in route will be given the choice to immediately return to the realm of the living. There is a danger however… if a soul has been corrupted by demonic forces, but not yet merged with other souls, it may return corrupted and evil, and this wont always be apparent to its former allies…

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The Valley of Oosular James3k