16 October, 2015

#Drawlloween #Inktober 16 - Grave

In the Darkhive, nothing goes to waste.

The cells of the hive are dark and dangerous, the resources that sustain the survivors may seem plentiful, be those with some age and wisdom know that they are actually finite. The energy required to sustain a living being needs to be returned to the hive at the end of their time, otherwise a new generation will be unable to thrive.

One of the more common ways to return nutrients to the cycle is by burying the bodies of the dead into the mushroom farms that surround most of the hive's settlements. A small ritual marker indicates who has been buried in a particular mushroom mound, and over the course of a few years, the body decomposes as it's nutrients are absorbed by the fungal growth. Typically, the family of the deceased tends the mound and takes the largest share of the fungal harvest. If a structural fungus is grown (like "mushwood") the family will strive to incorporate a piece for their homes often engraved with the name of the deceased. If the nutrients have nourished an edible fungus, the family never eats it themselves (this is considered akin to incest in some cultures), instead it is used as a valuable trade commodity.

It is considered exceptionally bad form to take fungi from a mound marked as a burial site without the owning family's permission. Some families with a mystical bent have reinforced this taboo with curses against anyone who might defile such a grave. In other cases, ghosts of the departed use these mounds as anchor points to help remain stable in the afterlife (and they can be very upset when someone disturbs their remains).

Among some of the groups who live in the great spaces between shells, cremation is a known practice. But even among these groups, the ashes of the deceased are almost always used as fertilizers for ferns and the rare patches of coniferous trees. Regardless of the method of cadaver disposal, there seems to be a common thread of spiritual rebirth through fungus and plant growth before nutrients may be re-introduced to a new animal host.

This is made clearer when dealing with executed criminals who are not given the opportunity to "cleanse their souls in the grey and the green before rebirth". Instead these criminals are typically dismembered and fed directly to farm animals (or in the worst cases vermin).
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