The Council of Bone was formed approximately 2000 to 2200 years before the current era of Falhath, and was centered at the Great Barrow which now serves as the ignoble base of the Grand Cathedral of Ozea. It is important to remember that during this time, necromancy had not evolved, or re-evolved into an art since being lost with the destruction of the Zehin Ascendancy. Iron is considered an almost magical material, and copper and bronze are the metals of the day.
Prior to the Council, there were literally hundreds of burial customs and funeral protocols that were as often at odds with one another as they were complimentary. Superstition and fear were the primary driving forces of the day, as much a fear of the dead and death, as for the soul of the departed. The tribes were predominantly focused on the cremation of the dead, which in turn was seen as an affront to the settled folk of proto-Ozea. The burial in earth favored by the Ozians of the time was seen as a form of eternal inprisonment by the tribes, and was the source of much hostility and violence between the two folk.
To make matters worse, the dusky native Falhathians themselves had no real set form of ceremony, and ranged from leaving the dead in heaps at crossroads, to cremation, to the most unsavory Feast of the Fallen, were the bodies of the dead were left in a field for scavengers to take.
While necromancy was yet to come into the scene, the Council of Bone was not without its own tools. Osseomancy, magic revolving around bone and its proposed purity was their main ability. Their main art was summoning the dead, but this power required that the shaman have the skull of the departed, or the majority of the bones if the skull was not available. Some charalatan exploited this art and became convincing bone whisperers and ventriloquists.
The second art was the casting of destinies. The most common method was the casting bone lots or knuckle bones. This reading was sometimes vague and was guiding supposedly by the dead, though there was little to tell fakirs from the genuine mediums. The second, and less common method was the burning of scapulas, shoulder blades. The patterns that burned into the bone were examined by the casters, the cracks and breaks being insights into the future. While the bone tossers were often immitated, the bone-burners were held with a bit of fear and reverence for their arts.
Their final art was binding spirits of the dead into fetishes, most often bones. Many a bone handled knife was created that held the spirit of a slain warrior, or treated skull as the receptical of a departed shaman. These relics created living conduits into the past, allowing the dead to pass on their wisdom to the living. A note should be made that during this time, only the most base and evil shaman would unwillingly bind a spirit into a weapon or tool.
The greatest contribution of the Council of Bone was the Edict of Bones that laid out the specific protocol for the handling of dead bodies and their internment. The best care was given to shaman and upper nobility who were washed and annointed with oils before being wrapped in funeral shrouds and placed in special marcked niches in the great barrows.
The wealthy could maintain barrows of their own, though in lesser stature that the Great barrows, these mini-mausoleums would be kept functional by the use of an ossuary, or bone pit beneath the floor of the main level.
Commoners were placed atop the tower on wooden platforms. Vultures were attracted to these offering towers and would pick the bodies clean of flesh. This might seem gruesome, but this handling of the dead in truth reduced the number of diseases and such in the areas where it was practiced. After a time, there was even a small faction within the Council that saw to the care of the vultures, as well as cleaning their excrement from the towers and grounds surrounding them.
Traitors, mercenaries, and the worst of criminals were given a different final treatment. After their death, their bodies were left in hanging cages of bronze, an example for those who would walk the criminal path. After the body was sufficiently dried and abused by passers-by, it would be taken down cremated. These ashes were then mixed into the mortar that was used to build gaols and other unsavory structures.
The Council of Bone was by and large a pacifist organization that was primarily concerned with the proper handling of the dead and administering funeral rites to prevent the spontaneous rising of rare vampires and more common cannibalistic ghouls or vengeance bound revenants. Compared to the inefficient Tomb King art of Sarcomancy (animate dead), the low sorcery practiced by the Council of Bone was insufficient to resist. When the minions of the Tomb Kings appeared, armed with a new variation of old magic, the Council of Bone was all but powerless to stop them from taking over for their short, yet brutal reign.
The Old Woman - The Via Mortus is a very old path, and not all of its ways have gone. The paths of osseomancy, and the casting of knucklebones and burning shoulder-blades is not gone. In reclusive back woods locals, withered old men and women recall the Gray Path, and toss the bones, and call the dead.
Saint's Bones - Many a follower of the Osseous Path has made a living as a panderer of Saint's bones and relics. Perhaps, among the thousands of fake sheep's bones, there is a genuine relic, and an associated genuine seer who can call the saint through the bone.
Old Skeletons - A new follower of the Osseous Path has come, and has decided that he doesnt need old bones, that fresh ones work just as well and are generally in better condition. His tools are ghosts he commands be first killing the victim, stripping them of flesh, acid or beetles, boiling or just knifework, and then using their bones to control them. A thief of the worst sort...
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? Responses (3)-4
I have always been fascinated with bones, skulls, and ossuaries. Enjoyed everything about this!
The ashes of criminals mixed in with the mortar is intriguing. This may be used to explain haunted houses in general!
Spirit-bone fetishes and Sarcomancy are nice touches too!
I love the idea of mixing criminal's ashes into mortar for jails. 5/5
I enjoyed this. Nice background and details, good reasons for the stuff happening.