Under Feet of Clay
All life comes to an end, whether the greatest hero or the lowliest peasant. The afterlife for Calopenes is not particularly joyous or enviable; the halls of Thantadeus swarm wish shades, the remnant and echo of a once mortal being. These shades have no real agency, and when the cross into the realms of the Bonelord, they are driven to such thirst by the journey that they drink of the waters that slowly drain their memory. There is no punishment, no reward, no ultimate purpose to be found in death; it is an unavoidable fact that mortals will dwell eternally in the dismal halls beneath the earth.
There is one way to avoid this, however. Heroes who join the ranks of the Anthrotheon will be spared the halls of Thantadeus, or at least be rescued from them, and dwell in the Elysian Fields, a separate realm where they enjoy renewed vigor and a deific form that doesn’t age or grow weary. The have limited ability to interact with the world from this lofty perch, but are spared the dreary caverns of the dead. It is well known that Thantadeus feels cheated that he cannot claim the shades of the heroes, and that this arrangement established by Xiphios was an overreach of authority.
Regardless, once there is no life in the body, nearly all Calopenes seek cremation for their dead. The pyres are burned, usually on a hilltop outside the city or near a sea shore, the bones are collected and sometimes placed in a box or a jar. These relics of the dead linger for a time, sometimes given a place of honor near the hearth of a home, buried near a favorite hunting spot, or secreted away in a vault. The wealthy purchase niches in the catacombs of Chilones where dedicated priests of Thantadeus care for the bones and maintain family lobes of the caverns. The dead are believed by Calopenes to linger on as shades as long as they are remembered on festivals and given names, so invoking the name of the dead once each year is a common practice, particularly around the feast of the Parentalia. It is believed that when a shade is totally forgotten and not called after a year, it melts back into the aether, broken down to raw soul-stuff and ready to be born again into a new body.
Barbarians, too, burn their dead, though people familiar with their practices know it is because the believe a spirit allowed to linger sings to the earth rather than being lifted up. Lingering spirits are a major concern for superstitious barbarians, and more than a few Calopenes have adopted barbarian charms against ghosts. Better safe than sorry, right?
The funeral rites of some particularly religious or superstitious groups vary from the Calopene standard. Those killed at sea are thrown overboard, as fires on ships are a problem waiting to happen. The sailors aboard request that Thalattos bear the body to a crevasse in the sea floor where the shade can sink to the halls of the dead. There are reports of cultists who participate in cannibalism, consuming the flesh of the dead in a ritual meal, though no such events have been observed by civilized eyes. An ancient dwarven practice that is only carried out by the staunchest conservatives forsakes the funeral pyre altogether, in addition to the deathbed, bidding that the most ancient and ill should take only an axe and a walking stick, and trek into the deepest cave they can manage; from there, the psychopomps will find their shade and escort them the rest of the way. Those who can make it to the bone-white palace still living are thought to earn a special blessing for their family that lasts six centuries. Happily, this does leave the thrifty merchants of Solonos a means to encourage the dying to disappear without significant funeral cost, a fact cynically pointed out by the poor and skeptical.