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A soul is the essence of an individual's consciousness, memory, and personality. Souls power bodies and give their tissues life if they are firmly attached to their host. Any damage to the underlying link, up to and including total separation, can manifest as a number of soul-related ailments. The most terrible of these is a hollow birth, a child born without a soul.
Interactions with souls[edit | edit source]
While mortals do not understand how souls "work", what is known is that sapient souls move through an endless cycle of waking life and purgatorial slumber among the gods. Most times this metaphysical rest lasts for several years, but it can also be very brief, with a soul reincarnating immediately. The process of reincarnation is not perfect however. Souls can experience "fracturing" over generations, transforming in myriad ways, and not always functioning properly. Certain cultures or individuals may place high values on various soul characteristics. Some of these characteristics include "strong" souls, souls with a "pure" lineage, "awakened souls (meaning souls that can recall past lives), "traveled" souls (souls that have drifted through various divine realms) or souls that coexist in a single body. However, the opposite is also true, resulting in negative discrimination and sometimes outright violence.
Through a variety of techniques (e.g. martial training, meditation, ritualistic evocation, mortification of the flesh), some individuals are able to draw upon the energy of their soul to accomplish extraordinary feats. These abilities range from the mundanely superhuman to the explosively magical. Having a strong soul seems to make this easier, but sometimes even people with fragmented souls are able to accomplish the extraordinary. The individual's body seems to act as a conduit and battery for this power, drawing in replenishment from seemingly omnipresent "fields" of unbound spiritual energy in the world around them.
Thinkers, spiritualists, and scientists of the world have theorized for thousands of years about the nature and purpose of this process, but others have turned to prayer for answer. Rather than illuminate the presumed higher purpose of this cycle, the gods have obfuscated the truth, at times spreading cosmological lies, pitting believers and empowered chosen agents against each other, and tacitly approving the prejudices of their followers to maintain power.
Whatever the fundamental nature of mortal souls is, the people of the world accept the reality of what they have observed: that all mortal bodies contain perceptible energy bound to the individual, and that once they die, their energy will move forward in the eternal cycle that they are all a part of—that as far as they know, they have always been a part of.
Following the War of Black Trees, Dyrwoodan Animancers learned that some old and large trees in Eir Glanfath have souls. Animancers categorized souls held within a physical vessel as "housed" souls.
Religion[edit | edit source]
As mortals enter an era of increased self-awareness, the power that they can tap within their own souls has grown significantly. Despite this increase in power, mortals still worship deities, either out of respect, or due to fear of what might happen in the afterlife should they not. Upon death, it is speculated that deities will claim the souls of those that please them and reincarnate them into the body of someone who will lead a good life. Should an individual without a connection to a specific deity (such individuals are known as the Faithless) die, it is believed that their souls enter the "lottery of souls". Some religions also believe that lack of devotion to a deity, or even lack of devotion to the right deities can cause soul-splintering.
Necromancy[edit | edit source]
Individuals attempting to disrupt the natural cycle of life and death are considered to be engaging in necromancy. Various methods to break this cycle include speaking with the soul of a dead mortal, attempting to tap into the unconscious past lives of a living soul, or binding either soul energy or a complete soul inside of a dead body. Depending on the culture, these acts are viewed with differing levels of criticism. Many folk share the interest of necromancers and would like to understand more about the eternal cycle, but are also afraid of what they might learn. Some extremists are opposed to any and all necromancy, and tales say that a quiet and powerful cult that has worked for centuries to discredit, trap, and even murder necromancers for their efforts. To the people who oppose necromancy with such violent passion, mortal understanding should have limits, and they fear the consequences for the world should those limits be unraveled.
Death[edit | edit source]
When people die, their souls almost always move toward portals to (presumably) the realms of the gods. Some souls stick around, becoming "lost souls", though they can do very little in the mortal world other than postpone their own reincarnation. It is difficult to interact with lost souls, but they have neither the limitations nor the advantages of being connected to a body.