Written by Shinuschil
Dragonkin tend to focus on the physical rather than the spiritual. However, even they cannot deny the existence, albeit very rare, of dragonkin ghosts that manifest around their cities. The fact that those ghosts that do manifest report it is very hard to achieve this is felt to explain the low numbers, particularly when combined with the fact that the ghosts report they too are waiting for the return of the dragons. However, if the ghosts of dragonkin simply wait for the return of the dragons a lower proportion of them become capable of manifesting than of any other species. This could, of course, be simply because dragonkin ghosts are content to wait for the return of the dragons, but wild speculations suggest other theories to account for this. Servants of the drakes stealing the souls is one such suggestion that has gained credence in an attempt to discredit the Drakeskins. Dragonkin rarely seek out ghosts, dragonkin or otherwise. Such activity is not clearly serving the dragons, at least without direct orders from a dragon to that effect. If they do happen to encounter a dragonkin ghost they will usually treat it as one of their elder kin, and take advice if offered, otherwise they will simply greet it, and proceed with their normal tasks.
Dragonkin funerary rites, in the main, date back to their time with the dragons, at least that is what the dragonkin believe. Dragonkin existed, then as now, solely to serve the dragons. When they died they could not directly serve the Dragons any longer, but their flesh could aid other dragonkin continue to serve the dragons, returning to their community the flesh that the community had helped to nurture. Over time this cannibalistic approach to the dead has become ritualised to an incredible degree. There are ceremonies that surround washing, jointing, marinading and cooking the body parts. Dragonkin of different sects and cities have different styles of preparation, although all are recognised as acceptable by all except the most conservative members of the various groups that compose the society. Examples of variations in preparation of the fallen can quickly be seen if you compare the rites of the Drakeskins, Second Chancers and the Compassionists. Drakeskins carefully remove the skin of their fallen and preserve it. During the feasting, the skin is used as a cloth to cover the top table, and those Drakeskins who are particularly respected often have the designs of their scales painted over the rest of the room by their grieving comrades. There is no particular cut of meat that is revered and typically all the good meat is put into a stew or broth. All the skins of the fallen are flown from short poles, rather like flags, until the wind shreds them. The decorations and markings of particularly renowned Drakeskins are recorded by the elders for posterity. Whilst it is common to take a small section of a design and reproduce it on your own scales, it is forbidden to copy the design in its entirety. Dragonskins claim this is so that the dragons, on their return, will not be confused about which spirits to call to service. Second Chancers believe that the mind of the fallen was their greatest asset, the tool that helps them improve themselves the most, even if the actual process that the dragonkin undertook was purely one of physical improvement. To this end the head and in particular the brain are the most prized parts, offered to the family of the fallen if possible, or to their closest colleagues. The remaining parts are graded according to the nature of the deceased: the weapon arm and breast muscles of a flying warrior are the most prized parts, after the head, of one who undertook that path to improvement; whereas the forearms and hands of an alchemist are the most revered, and for students of Apporheta the lungs, heart and liver become prominent. The relevant parts are often cooked whole and formed back into a close resemblance of their form whilst living. The rest of the body is usually roasted. Compassionists believe, with some justification, that it is the spine and pelvis that keeps a body together, and go on to liken that to their role in keeping their cities working smoothly. Of course there is not much eating on the hollow bones of a dragonkin but their bones are rendered into a jelly not dissimilar to aspic and the choicest cuts of meat are painted with a layer of this jelly before consumption. Despite the name of the sect, the other parts are cooked with almost brutal efficiency: large muscles are roast, usually on the bone, smaller muscles and other parts are stewed, braised, fried or whatever. They do, however, live up to their name in their distribution of the meat: friends, neighbours, enemies, those who saw the dragonkin die and the like are all invited. Perhaps surprisingly at least one member of the temple guard, traditionally drawn by lot in most cities or by rotation in the others, is also invited to share in the feast, and this guard is always accorded a seat on the top table with the family of the fallen. Similarly the order of eating, and who is invited to eat of which of the myriad dishes prepared is now formalised, and varies depending on the relationship of the deceased to the city, its population and the temple. Occasionally a dragonkin will die in such a way that their body cannot be retrieved, particularly if they are away from dragonkin land at the time. This brings a small amount of shame to the family of the deceased, but this shame is expiated over time simply by continued support of the community and their activities. Very rarely a dragonkin will be denied the right to provide food to their community. This is reserved for the worst of heretics and traitors; those who try to poison the city, betray it to an enemy, those who deny the dragons will return, those who practice Mantra or worship of false gods. Many dragonkin go through their entire life without seeing such an event. The body of the reviled dragonkin must still be destroyed, and destroyed in such a way that no taint of the body and the evil that infected it can be returned to the community to taint them in future. Typically this involves burning on the edge of the range of the city, when the wind is blowing safely away, although historically such bodies have been thrown into volcanic fissures and other such completely destructive methods. Note that wars between dragonkin are essentially wars between Drakeskins and the rest. Both sides regard their foes as the ultimate heretics and their flesh is destroyed, ideally by burning on the site of their former homes which are thereafter shunned.
Dragonkin insist to all and sundry that the temples they build are homes for the dragons on their return. Dragonkin also insist that the dragons were the size of a mountain range, maybe a small mountain range but appreciably bigger than a single mountain. It is also obvious that the temples that the dragonkin build are on the sides of mountains, and even allowing for some exaggeration in their memories, it seems unlikely a dragon will fit into such a small space. The truth of the matter lies in the cultural use of the word home by the dragonkin. A home, to the dragonkin, is not tied to a property and continuous dwelling (where a house becomes a home after some time living there) in the same way it is for most other cultures, rather it refers to a place natural or constructed that is regularly used and has certain useful features. In the case of a dragonkin’s home this would be perching sites, water, easy access to food etc. and could be a tree near a watering spot where the branches are pruned back to give a good perching site but it could include the most spectacular constructions as well. Taken in this context the temples really are, or at least were, homes for the dragons, in that they were modifications to the environment to make their lives more easy at places to which they returned often. If you ask the right questions about the purposes of the temples it turns out that there were at least five common uses for the structures. *A dragon-sized finger bowl, allowing the dragonkin to go about their task of cleaning their master’s talons more easily. *An equally impressively sized food bowl. Dragonkin would put food into the bowl and the dragon would sit there and snack on it whilst watching Dragon-TV or planning to kill the Gods. *According to the dragonkin certain of the dragons liked to look their best - scales polished and coloured for example. This is behind the habit of tattooing onto the scales that some dragonkin still exhibit. The buildings were either storehouses or ink-pots for the dyes and polishes used. *The buildings were used (although it is not clear that the term “home” can be applied to it) to plug fissures to the depths. Giant cthonian worms and the like are reported to dwell down there and to have attacked the dragons. The dragons would, obviously, exterminate these vermin but order their servants to block the passageways from beneath to the surface. These buildings, even then, were ornamented for reasons lost in the mists of time but thought to be an indication of the victorious dragon and the defeated foe. *Finally, and most controversially, the dragonkin refer to some of the original buildings on which temples were modeled as egg-chambers. Dragons, being of divine nature are assumed not to breed, so why would they need egg chambers? Dragonkin point to their origins, and the origins of the drakes and other species now thought extinct as directly created by the dragons. The egg-chambers were not for the eggs of a dragon to hatch into another dragon, rather they were for the birth of the dragon’s servant species. It is important to realise, however, that temple building has continued for the entirety of dragonkin history. Whatever the original functions of the original buildings that inspired the temples the current temples have become ornate. Their architecture and decorative details are dictated by faith and tradition rather than by the actual needs of the dragons. Whilst the origins of the temples were certainly functional, things that helped the dragons or helped the dragonkin serve them better, and faith insists that this is still the case an objective (and deeply heretical) assessment would suggest that this is no longer factual. The most recently completed temples, whilst marvels of architecture and devotion, are certainly not suitable for the first three functions described. It is not clear that they are suitable for the last two either.