Nature of the Soul
The Nature of the Soul, and Related Issues
Some aspects of the metaphysics of the Polyverse have a direct impact on the activities of adventurers therein. One of the critical matters here is the nature of the soul, for it has ramifications when it comes to the fate of the dead, the casting of spells, and more…
The Nature of the Souls
The first thing to understand is that the living being actually has a number of parts and that they can be assembled in a number of forms.
- Khat is the physical body, with or without life. A person, a corpse, and an undead body without a soul (skeleton or zombie) are all Khat.
- Akh is what is normally thought of as the Soul. It includes the personality of a living being. It is also the part of a person affected by Purity and Taint. Nonsapient living creatures do not have Akh.
- Ab is sometimes called the Heart, but it is not strictly speaking the physical heart. It is a mystical energy that exists within any living Khat, and, in the case of sapient creatures, is bound to the Akh. Nonsapients have simple Abs. An Ab that exists outside a living body (Sahu, see below) is ethereal. Akh and Khat cannot exist together without Ab or its equivalent.
- Ren is commonly known as the True Name (or Truename). It is a standing wave or vibration that emenates from the Akh, and serves to hold the Akh, Ab, and Khat together. Again, nonsapients have simple, generic Rens. As a vibration, Ren can be turned into a sound, and this sound, when spoken aloud, can affect the creatures associated with that Ren.
- Members of the Shadowy Men sometimes speak of another soul which they call Khaibat or Shadow Self. The nature of this soul is obscure.
As stated above, various combinations of these entities exist. Some of the more important are:
- Sahu is the usual sapient living being – Khat, Ab, Akh, held together by Ren.
- Ka is an undead body with a soul – technically, Khat, Akh, and a false or necromantic Ab, still mediated by Ren.
- Ba is an undead soul without a body – Akh with Ren but no Ab or Khat.
- Sekhem is a dead (rather than undead) soul. Such entities are sometimes called Petitioners, and when encountered on the appropriate Shard, manifest themselves as physical bodies (which, nonetheless, are not Khat, but rather physical manfiestations of Akh and thus also lack Ab). They also carry a Ren. Outsiders are also Sekhem.
What Happens Upon Death
At the moment of death, the Ab is disrupted, separates from the Khat, and becomes ethereal. Creatures that can see ethereal objects notice the Ab as a hazy object about the size of the creature’s heart. The Akh remains in the vicinity of the Ab for about half a minute before travelling to the shard where it will reside for the rest of its existence as a Sekhem. What happens to the Khat largely depends on the circumstances of death.
Raising the Dead
Powerful divine magic and wishes can bring the dead back to life. For most of these spells to work, the Khat is not sufficient – the spellcaster must also have the Ab near at hand. As the Ab is very difficult to transport (due, among other things, to its etherealness), for all but the most powerful spells to work, the spellcaster will likely have to be at the site of the creature’s death. The spellcaster must also pronounce the appropriate Ren as part of the ritual.
Attempting to restore “life” to a Khat without the Ab appropriate to it either results in complete failure or a different type of creature – an undead or deathless being. Undead, Deathless, Elementals, Outsiders, Constructs Most creatures are Sahu – Khat, Ab, Akh, held together by Ren. There are a few exceptions, however.
- Undead and Deathless creatures can be constituted in a number of ways. Soulless undead (skeletons and zombies) are Khat – physical bodies, animated by necromantic energies, but with no Akh, and no Ab. Ka and Ba are
- Elementals and Outsiders are unusual in that their physical bodies are not Khat, but rather Akh, turned physical. As such, they have a very tight connection with their home shards. Taking them away from their home shards leaves them open to a number of magical effects which send them home, and also leave them unable to benefit from revivification magic. As such, although such creatures are powerful, they rarely leave their homes unless compelled or otherwise strongly motivated.
- Constructs are Khat with a very basic Ab, and generally no Akh whatsoever. Intelligent constructs (and living ones, such as Warforged) have an Akh as well, and thus a Ren.
About True Names
As a vibrational energy, Ren can be used as a component in spells. Correct pronounciation of a Ren or True Name requires knowledge of the Draconic language – the Great Wyrms who first discovered language did so by discovering their true names. Use of a True Name causes conflict with the caster’s own Ren, but that is often a small cost to pay for the considerable power gained.
note to interested players
this terminology is taken from ancient Egyptian religion, although it is adapted somewhat freely. where appropriate categories exist in the campaign, i’ve tried to match them up.