The Word Was the City, and the City Was God
[[The Mysticism and Purpose of Rover Monastic Culture]]
Next to their caravans, the second most common sight of Rovers, the diminutive cat peoples of the Unbound Sea, are the small monastic enclaves planted by that race's monks. The members of such congregations rarely number over 10 members, who support themselves by teaching martial arts, and engaging in light industry such as weaving or gardening. Such centers are havens for the poor and maligned: Rover monks swear oaths of succour upon attaining their habit, and are forbidden from turning away any needy. The monks themselves lead loosley regimented lives, working, translating ancient texts, or meditating in their stupa.
Under the surface of serene contemplation, a storm of unseen spiritual power swirls like a typhoon. The Cat-monks make no secret of the fact that they tap into the spirit power of their un-reincarnated ancestors to guide them in their martial arts. They call this power khai often mistranslated to, 'ki' by the common races. The process of tapping into this well is not a simple one. Newly inducted members of an order can ony access so much before losing their grip on the spirit world; only years of practice and focus can hone the mind to the point that great feats are possible, let alone attainable. As with all power, wielding the khai comes at price: by burning such power, the Rovers believe they slows their ancestor's ability to reincarnate. In the days before the Tyrant Wars, it is said whole bloodlines were fizzled out by the selfish use of the khai. Use of khai energy produces other side effects over time. The longer it is used, a monk ages more slowly, until they cease to do so at all. Food and water become unecessary. According to the scrolls of the ancients, such a process signals the end of that souls' journey, and it melds with the physical form completely, ending that monk's ability to reincarnate. Some schools insist that this also ends their ancestor spirit's ability to do so as well; as a result, many monks go to seek a worthy death instead of tampering with the spirit world's cycles.
Khai is accessed by meditation upon the mysteries of what is called the Dajji'dar-Dajji'Ut also called, "The Way of Hot and Cold" and the, "Mysteries of the Desert Soul" among others. It embodies what the most outstanding aspects of the desert, which feed and inform all parts of Rover life and culture. Dajji'dar represents life under the desert sun, passion for life, bright colors and unswerving dedication to one's path. Dajji'Ut is the cold of the desert night whose stillness is like death, with the promise of life to come in the morning. It is the cold calm that a true warrior of the Rover people feels in battle, the satisfaction that comes with hard work, and quietude of the soul necessary to speak with the dead. Both aspects reflect the nature of sand, which piles up where the wind blows it, as the Rovers do, collecting in one place and moving on as fortune and nature dictate. Single grains go where they will, destined surely to blend back into the dunes when seperated. When confronted with a problem, the best solutions is to sweep around it bit by bit or engulf the enemy completely.
Community with the dead is rich with physical fetishes and sensual props. The rich incenses harvested from dried desert lichens play an important part in day to day connections between the living and the dead. All Rovers burn it near constantly; they believe the swirling smoke is moved into its patterns by the spirits of the dead surrounding the living. It is also used in healing rituals. The clans belive the khai can be inhaled by the sick to heal magical ailments, even curses. The rich rugs and hangings favored by Rovers and coveted by foreign merchants also serve a mystical purpose. The monks meditate upon the patterns as they are being woven, and attempt to divine the future or the demands of the dead from such arts. Holidays, such as the Aggi-zidridi or 'Equinox of the Souls' see the Rovers run through powdered pigments in streets across the world, dying their fur and skin in a rainbow of gaudy colors, representing that day when the body and soul are mostly closely intersected across the spheres. Special communes are made with the ancestors, and laterns painted with hopeful visions of the future before being burnt.
The art of scrimshaw is one rarely practised outside Rover monastaries. When a monk dies, it is only proper that they are burnt with an offering to the ancestors, usually dried fruits. The charred bones are then collected, each to a different purpose. The hands are scriven with the monks' deeds, the footbones marked with all the lands they travelled. The head is placed in a special mausoleum, and bear the names of the deceased. Most treasured of all is the right thigh bone; while other bones are carved with matters of the physical plane, the thigh is marked with the accomplishments of the spirit. The core is drilled out, and holes bored into the sides. The end result is a bone flute, of supreme significance to a family, called a Daj'da Ghat. Each flute plays a different tune, believed to play the tune of the soul to which the bone belongs. Playing the flute summons the spirit of the dead directly to the material plane. Such an undertaking is dangerous; it allows the dark spirits of those monks who neglected to folow the Dajji'Dar-Daggi'Ut in previous cycles to slip back into the world and cause grevious mischief. When not being held, each Daj'da Ghat softly thrums with a hidden music. It is said that the ancestor's of those monks who have achieved immortality Daj'da Ghat no longer whisper their songs.