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Sword of the Stars

Hiver Reincarnation

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Reincarnation Edit

Due to the quirks of Hiver physiology, death is not necessarily the end of any given Hiver's life. A great deal of short and long–term memory is stored in crystalline form in a Hiver's brain case, and these chemicals can be extracted intact for up to 72 hours after death.

Cannibalism among the Hiver is a rather different thing than it is among terrestrial insects. Such an act would be a powerful gesture of love and reverence for the most part — don't forget, the female Hiver's "love feast" is a rite of rebirth.

It is extremely rare. The circumstances depend on the Princess. She always has the power, but it does take a good deal of her internal resources to achieve a resurrection.

During the reincarnation process, a female Hiver ingests the remains of the Hiver to be reincarnated, passing the braincase through the crop only. When the bones and tissue of the adult Hiver are dissolved the brain can be conveyed to her ovaries and encysted into a proto–egg which is conjoined to a second egg (a la Siamese twins). Over a period of days a tiny electro–chemical storm occurs within the female Hiver's ovary during which the old brain in its proto–egg is run through its paces. As many habitually repeated synaptic chains (a.k.a. "memories") as possible are woven into the rapidly forming brain of the infant Hiver in the "twin" egg.

Effectively, the life of the dead Hiver "passes before its eyes", rapidly and repeatedly. As much information as possible is transferred. When the process is complete the proto–egg is reabsorbed into the female Hiver's body, the "twin" breaks free to be hatched in the normal way.

What's truly interesting about Hiver "reincarnation" is that an exceptional worker can experience the ultimate in "upward mobility" — if he impresses his mother sufficiently, he can be "reborn" as a warrior or even a Prince.

Reincarnation as a Princess would be an extraordinary reward and promotion, and a recognition of a remarkably gifted individual. Becoming a Princess is a vanishingly rare social accomplishment and would not be granted to any Hiver who had not proved worthy of the power, influence and responsibility involved. The most likely cause of such a promotion would be the Queen's desire to select and groom an heir to the throne — in Hiver society, this grooming could have a physical as well as a political and social component.

Now that's a promotion.

However it can also work both ways. While being restored to life is always an honor, being reduced in status from Prince to Worker could be seen as a brutal reprimand. And yes, this can always happen — it is entirely at the female's discretion the shape the new Hiver body takes. A worker can become a Princess — a Princess can become a worker.

Reincarnating a Queen is another matter. When the "jewels" of a Hiver Queen are ingested by another female Hiver, they behave very differently than those of any other Hiver. The jewels of the Queen dissolve completely, and rapidly transform the body of a Princess into a Queen herself — also transferring a certain amount of genetic material to her next crop of eggs and some memory and personality data to her brain in the process.

In case anyone wonders, a Queen can also devour another Queen — usually a defeated enemy. When this occurs, the latter aspects of memory and genetic transfer are stronger — the devourer will absorb much more information from the devoured, and the next crop of eggs will much more strongly resemble the fallen Queen.

Reincarnation is also very useful in preserving valuable skills and giving the Hiver access to information which would otherwise be lost. However, the practice has led to a few unfortunate incidents in which some Hiver who had been exposed to a lethal plague were carried back to the Princess/Queen for renewal resulting in a predictable disaster for the whole family, or in the case of the Queen being infected, the entire Hiver race.

Hiver are unable to study the process in full, scientifically, for obvious political/social reasons. In Hiver history there has never been a time in which it was both politically and socially feasible not only to obtain the body of a Princess/Queen for study, but to publish the results of such a study. Only a few more recent Queens who had a personal curiosity on the subject have encouraged some work to be done on their bodies during the "reincarnation" process, usually by non–lethal and relatively non–invasive means — i.e., fiber–optic cameras, devices that measure bio–electricity, etc.

The studies that have been done on newly reincarnated Hiver infants have been many, of course. Cognitively, the results of the reincarnation process vary, but the presence of unique personal memories which manifest in the new Hiver averages around 40%, in a younger Princess. An older, more experienced female performing the ritual known as Chekin'te Rapa'Chek — literally, "The Mother's Faith to the Faithful" — can bring the rate of return up to nearly 90% in some cases.

The female performing the ritual seems to have some mind–body interaction during the process — i.e., it is possible for a Princess or Queen who develops her meditation techniques to become much better at recovering the data from the crystals ingested, so as to maximize the transition of memory. Queens tend to have better results than Princesses do, especially as they clock over 400 years in age. The more experienced and mature the female, the better her results will tend to be — it is not uncommon for a young, inexperienced Princess who wishes to have one of her clan reborn to call in a very special favor from an older female.

Hiver regard rebirth of this kind to be a sacred rite, and the new person resulting from the process is both more and less than the person he was before. For obvious reasons, it is nearly impossible to resume any duties or responsibilities he may have had as an adult Hiver before death — even if he retains 90% of his memories, he will be unable to sort and express these ideas as an infant, and will need time to regain control over his faculties and his limbs in a new body.

After the first year after birth, the reborn will be interviewed extensively to see how much data has been retained — this is a test of the one who was reincarnated, obviously, and it will determine how he is treated or viewed by the rest of society. The only Human analogy which comes to mind is the classic interview process undergone by the traditional Panshin and Dalai Lamas, in Tibet, when the reincarnated soul of an ancient priest was found residing in the body of an 8–year–old boy. An extensive interview process was designed to prove that the boy retained the memories and wisdom of the man he once was — and, from their point of view, the man he had always been.

In a not–always–subtle fashion, of course, this interview process among Hiver is also a test of the fitness of the female who performed the cannibal ritual. Diminishing returns or sloppy results of the Chekin'te are nearly almost a precursor to the overthrow and death of an aging or doddering Queen.

There are stories of a Princess reincarnating a fallen Hiver from an enemy clan, but they are largely apocryphal and spiritual in nature. The image associated with giving new life to a fallen enemy and incorporating (or re–incorporating) that person into the clan is one of longing for peace, healing, and redemption. Accordingly these tales tend to be associated with the forgiveness and mercy of the Queen, or the love between sisters or siblings (a Princess who re–births her clutch brother, a Prince who had joined a clan which opposed her etc.).

In general, a female Hiver would never devour an enemy. The point of killing an enemy is that they stay dead.

Technically there is no limit to the number of times a Hiver could be reincarnated in this fashion, and a strong Queen can reincarnate a favored son or daughter many times. Nonetheless, something is lost with every passage, and Hiver tend to sacralize multiples of three and six. It is considered profane to rebirth any Hiver more than eleven times — the final feast belongs to their Goddess, as it is She who swallows those who die final death, bringing them forth as pure new life without memory of pain or sorrow.

A Hiver Queen or Princess cannot "reserve" the jewels of the Queen within her own body. They are much too powerful. A Queen cannot be reincarnated — her crowning gems can only dissolve into the body of a another female. She can make a Princess into a new Queen and have some impact on her rival's thought, personality and eggs...but she cannot be fully extracted as with humbler Hiver.

Becoming Queen is the last incarnation of any Hiver.

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