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Scott Bennie wrote and posted this article to the FR mailing list April 23,
JOURNEY OF A DEAD MULHORANDI
Written by Belaeos Turanin, A Traveler of Saerloon, DR 1244
late spring of the Year of the Defiant Keep, my host's uncle, an old but very
pleasant fellow named Rehep, inadvertently stumbled from a tower window and
died. Now I had a chance to observe the grieving habits of the Mulhoarandi
(sic). I was asked by my host to accompany him and his family as they embarked
on a funeral procession and made the long journey of tears from Skuld to the
southern town of Mishtan. When I asked him why the Mulhoarandi (sic) found it so
necessary to make such a long and difficult voyage when there were good burial
sites so much closer to the City of Shadows, I was told that the sem-priests
(the funeral artisans) of Mishtan performed their rituals with such skill that
it made the dead far more attractive to the strange nethergod of the Mulani
(sic), and they had a much greater chance for a happy afterlife.
voyage was, of course, reserved for only the wealthiest people in the kingdom,
but I held my tongue, though my host had become accustomed to my habit of making
remarks that they called "half-insults".
Rehep's body was wrapped in a great shroud of black cloth. Spices and
semi-precious stones were mixed with the covering, tokens meant to comfort his
spirit during its long wait for burial, and the wrappings were enchanted so they
would preserve the corpse on its journey. Most impressive was a painted copper
body-sheathe, like half-armor, that was laid over the shroud when it was mounted
on the bier; it covered the man from crown to foot in a human shaped cocoon, and
its face was shaped and painted so it would be a perfect likeness of the dead.
Then he was placed on a bier of cedarwood, which my host called the aurke (sic)
of the dead.
was taken on a procession, along with seven other corpses, through the streets
of the city of Skuld. This began with the sounding of horns at the Catacombs of
Skuld, where their bodies were prepared for the journey. Each bier was carried
by four porter-slaves of the Falcon-god  extremely strong men who looked more
like half-ogri than men (though they were not uncomely), with huge sloping
shoulders and a thick chest and arms. They were clad in the meagerest of
garments (as is the habit of the land during this season). They were well
acquainted with their burden, and rarely stumbled (even in noon-heat) and
although they bore an oppressive load they happily informed me that theirs was a
pleasant task. Imagine, this uneasy mix of brutish slavery and death seeming
pleasant to any man!
were carried from the Catacombs up the Avenue of Osiris, a wide street where
falcon figures adorned the towers, until we crossed into the northwest ward and
came to the Dead Man's Inn, the tavern in Skuld most favored by travelers. There
we turned south until we came to the sea gate. The mourners wept, but their
grief was drowned out by the funeral song of the porter-slaves, whose low voices
possessed a most pleasing harmony.
were loaded into two funeral barges, long ships with many oars. This was the
moment when most of those friends who had known Reshep during his life said
good-bye to him, and many brought offerings and laid them on the ship. Reshep's
bier, its bronze sheathe harshly reflecting the early afternoon sun, was now
placed below deck with much ceremony and when all eight bodies were aboard, we
then rowed for three days down the River of Shadow - a rough ride in
places - to the city of Jalhoriand.
is a large, sprawling, dream-like city; its buildings are not tall towers as in
Skuld, but it is greener than the capital, especially near the river banks,
which is crowded by small green pyramids, cluttered by green vines and
oasis-ivy. This is known to the locals as the City of Ten Thousand Roads, for
here all trade in Mulhoarand (sic) eventually comes. The center of the city is
the great step pyramid of the Judge of the Dead, nearly three hundred feet high.
This pyramid is a magnificent if somewhat ominous sight, covered in black
capstones speckled in jade, and at its zenith is a golden pyramid stone, nearly
as tall as a man, and inlaid with turquoise. Hundreds of falcons roost on the
upper steps of the pyramid, falcons roost, so it is a veritable city of hawks.
By all accounts, the birds are quite intelligent, and the falcon-keepers of
Horus-Re band their talons in silver and use them as an airborne army in time of
war or dragon.
corpses row via a canal into the heart of the city, and the bodies are unloaded
and placed in quarters in the pyramid, awaiting the next step of their journey.
We have come to the city during the feast of Nephthys, and in which I am invited
to take part. First we hold a parade along the streets, which are lined with
tall wooden poles on which ostrich and gryphon plumage is placed. All that is
unclean has been removed from the streets, and beggars have been brought into
the bathing houses (which adjoin the river) and have been bathed and dressed in
clean wrappings and cloaks, for the priests will tolerate nothing in the city
that offends the goddess (though the goddess, it seems, takes no offense at
nudity, as long as the people are clean). The procession is a colorful affair;
hundreds of people march in a solemn line down the avenues, the wealthiest
adorned in gold and robes lined with ostrich feathers. At the head of the
procession are teams of dancing priestesses who shake great racks of bells as
they whirl, a rite of purification. At the end of the procession, eight heavily
burdened slaves hoisted an exquisitely carved and painted wooden statue of the
goddess, which was as tall as four men. At times the procession stopped, and the
poor provided offerings of copper coins, in the hopes that the goddess will
reward them at some future time with gold.
parade came to its end, I was invited to dine with officials and the families of
the grieving in the House of Life that adjoined the temple of the Green Man ,
for the city has a tradition of charity in such times. The meal was punctuated
by more ceremony than I can describe - even something as simple as opening of a
window to allow the rays of the setting sun to shine on us was a major event of
great religious importance. Most curious, however, was the ceremony of the
plate. We dined from ceremonial platters of blue dragon bone china, and at the
meal's end, one of the platters was passed around the table and each of us was
asked to inscribe the name of some person who had done us a great wrong on it. I
inscribed the name of the man who defaulted on his wages to me many years ago.
Once all who intended to inscribe a name had done so, the priestess broke the
plate and shouted a curse on everyone whose names were written there.
meal, we toasted the memory of the dead with a chalice of date-wine, and then
the family descended into the resting place in the lower levels of the pyramid
(there was a large catacomb complex below) and swore an oath that Reshep's
earthly remains would always be taken care of. Now my host departed - only
Reshep's son and daughter would proceed from this place, but I was quite curious
about the rest of the rituals, and so I asked permission to see this journey to
its end, which was granted to me.
remained in the city for three days, until the temple was ready to proceed, then
we and a small army of mourners and porter-slaves bore nearly twenty bodies on
foot from Jalhoriand. The porters, provided by the temple of the Falcon-god,
seemed in better spirits than one would expect - one later told me that one had
been taken captive from the brutal slave-farms of Thay, which might explain why
they were happier with their fate. Their step never faltered, and I marveled at
their strength as much as I marveled at any wonder I encountered in my journey.
We took the Great South Road, traveling through more desert than I had ever seen
in my life. On the sixth day of our journey, an hour after we crossed the great
stone bridge over the River of Spears at Ulzuhl, one of the porter-slaves
felt a rumbling in the earth, and we were instructed to fall on our bellies and
remain still, for in Mulhoarand (sic), the dragons below are deadlier than the
dragons in the sky. We remained prone and unmoving for over an hour before we
were allowed to proceed again, and the desert sun plagued us as we lay still.
But there is a saying in these lands (though the priests of the falcon-god hate
it) "it's better to endure the dragon of the sun than the belly of the
nine days for the procession to move between Jalhoriand and Mishtan, but on the
eighth day there were sandstorms, so we were forced to take shelter in the
village of Perei, and our trek was extended an extra day. On the ninth day, we
came to a hill sheltered land, nourished by the springs that fed the River of
Spears, and by (or so its said) magicks that maintain the climate of a gentler
time. We had come to Mishtan.
procession came to an end at the great temple of Osiris, an upward spike like a
pyramid that had been pulled upward and stretched by the gods; this small
pearl-colored mountain was nearly eight hundred feet in height. Indeed, the
slaves told me that no man had touched this tower during its construction, but
it had been wrought and shaped by the gods. Here, the sem-priests joined the
procession, and led the corpses into the houses of ritual.
I was not
privy to the mysteries of the sem-priests, though I heard strange rumors that
his corpse was drawn and quartered after death and its remains placed in four
jars, that his brain was drawn out by a hook through the nostrils and eaten, and
that his heart was ritually devoured by a fiendish hippopotamus. The
body was reassembled, drowning in natron salt, and dried for four ten-days. I
thought it curious that they didn't use magic to shorten the process, but when I
mentioned this aloud, I was chastised by the sem-priest, for indeed (or so I was
told) they did use magic in the process - the sun itself is magic of the highest
order, and it shines most fiercely upon Mulhoarand (sic) as the blessing of
Horus-Re to his people.
forty days, the children of Reshep served part of their compulsory annual
service to the temple of Osiris, performing minor duties in the temple. As I
needed to earn my keep, I assisted the slaves in the fields. I worried about
being confused with the slaves and being treated like one, but I was assured
this would not happen. They rank among the hardest days of my life;
unfortunately, the greatest difference that I noticed between my treatment and
that of the slaves was that (because they were the property of the gods) the
slaves were fed first, and were given the greater share of water. Quarters were
tight and uncomfortable, and I slept on the floor with ten slaves, all of who
made me the butt of their jokes in the gibbering local tongue. But they were
friendly, except during times of worship, for they became annoyed that someone
who did not revere or serve the Falcon-god was intruding on their rites.
ten-days, Reshep's body was finally ready for entombment. The rest of the family
made another journey from Skuld, and when we gathered, the final ceremony would
take place. The body was placed in a great stone sarcophagus that was as heavy
as five men, and required eight strong slaves to bear it. They took it out of
the city gates and up a long stair that led into a long tunnel that had been
carved into the hillside, and Death's Door, the great seal that covered the tomb
of the dead in the cliff of Mishtan, was opened. Reshep was placed in a chamber
that was 12' x18' by 12' in dimensions. The wall had already been painted by
artisans with scenes of his life in the flat style favored by the artists of the
Mulhoarandi (sic), and the treasures that had been gathered prior to the journey
were placed here in piles. Alongside the sarcophagus, the family placed a small
coffin that contained a mummified dog (a beloved pet); several warrior dolls
were also placed here (which would come to life if the chamber seal was broken)
and a table was set with a magical plate and cup that would produce food and
wine upon command, to feed him in the afterlife.
treasures were placed and all songs were sung, the chamber which contained the
remains of Reshep were sealed. The door was marked with Reshep's name, and a
curse was placed on anyone who broke the seal. We said our final good-byes, and
then I returned with the family to Skuld.
Actually Jhalhoran, Belaeos seemed to have a lot of trouble with Mulhorandi
 One of
the magic items possessed by most Mulhorandi are Transfixation jars. Copper
coins are placed in the jar, and when one has earned the blessings of Nephthys,
they are miraculously changed into gold. Such transformations are both rare and
unexpected; the offerings in the Procession of Nephthys are meant to prod the
goddess into giving her blessing.
As in Egyptian funerary rituals, Mulhorandi also preserve the corpse, but place
the vital organs in four canopic jars (representing sons of Horus-Re), which are
placed in the tomb with the mummy. The other references (particularly feeding
the heart to the fiendish hippopotamus) are erroneous.
items are common in Mulhorandi tombs; on at least one occasion, a tomb robber
who was trapped in a crypt was able to survive imprisonment for years by using
these items (though when he was found, he was quite insane).
by Scott Bennie, April 2003