Ashes of War
The Undying Court
The Undying Court
The Undying Court are not just the Aereni elves’ spiritual advisers and ultimate political authority, they actually represent the collective faith of the elves of Aerenal. The Aereni offer their prayers to no distant god but to their own ancestors. Most of these ancestors are long deceased but their spirits watch over the elves of today, acting as guardians to their family lines. Some of the dead have not departed and walk Aerenal still. This combination of spirits and the animate dead is the sum total of the Undying Court: counselors, protectors, soldiers and gods to the elves of the island-continent.
This religion is like no other on Eberron, misunderstood and feared by many, yet it has produced a population more universally faithful to their moral and ethical beliefs than that of more “normal” faiths. The Aereni religion is not rigidly codified or quantified like many others, but if their primary doctrine were to be summed up, it might read something like this:
Existence is a spiritual journey requiring far longer than a single lifetime. Only the Undying can ever truly learn what great wonders lie at its end.
Thus, the elves of Aerenal do not fear death. They welcome it as simply a new stage of the spiritual journey. To the Aereni, no greater honor exists than to be accepted for the Rites of Transition, to become undying and remain on Aerenal to continue the journey and to watch over their descendants. The ritual to create a new undying is carried out by the Priests of Transition, who serve the Court in Shae Mordai and also act as the elven people’s clerics.
In life, the elves try to prove their worthiness for this great honor. Some adopt mannerisms to mimic the dead, even painting and mutilating their bodies to appear so. Others lead lives of great spirituality, honoring the Undying Court and serving their fellow elves to the best of their ability. But the fullest devotion to the Undying Court is devotion to one’s own family line, for the Court is composed of one’s ancestors. Aereni families are insular, keeping to themselves where possible, marrying within the line and focusing their worship and devotion on the ancestors and undying of their own blood. Thus, worship of the Undying Court changes—sometimes dramatically—from region to region and family to family across the isle.
The Aereni treat the undying in their midst as revered counselors and holy figures. Although the undying counselors are not the secular rulers of the nation—that power is reserved for the Sibling Kings—their advice is heeded by even the most powerful of elves. They are mouthpieces of the divine and they possess the wisdom of many generations.
While the Aereni honor and love the undying, they despise the undead. The Undying Court is empowered by positive, radiant energy that derives from Irian and its members do not feed off the living to survive. True undead are a corruption of this order, a violation of all laws of nature and spirit and are to be destroyed. An Aereni who becomes undead is the worst of all abominations, a blight on the world and the Undying Court.
It is a common misperception that the Aereni have no concept of divinity, that their ancestor worship omits the potential for true gods. This is a great fallacy and the largest hurdle for others to overcome to gain a true understanding of the elven faith. The Aereni do believe in divinity: the assembled spiritual might of the Undying Court itself. A given ancestor or undying counselor might possess knowledge but relatively little spiritual power. The Court as a whole, however, shapes the world of the Aereni, grants divine spells to elven clerics and essentially forms its own collective “god.” The elves pray to their ancestors’ spirits as emissaries and servants of the Undying Court, knowing that these individuals can present their words and deeds to the “God-Court” as a whole. A few Aereni maintain that some form of divinity did exist even before the formation of the Undying Court. They believe that a previous race of beings had reached the end of their spiritual journey as a whole, even as the elves and undying of Aerenal seek to do. These beings ascended to become the gods that would create the next world—divine powers that mortal minds interpret as Eberron, Khyber and Siberys, the Progenitors. These elves also believe that when the elves of Aerenal finally reach the end of their own spiritual journey, they will shape the fate of the new world yet to come.
It should be noted that the three Tairnadal sects of elves from northern Aerenal and Valenar do not worship the Undying Court. They have a separate, yet related, religious tradition known as The Spirits of the Past.