The Order of Ash are servants of the church and exist to keep the balance between life and death.
In the ages before the church was formed, these orders already existed in many forms among primitive cultures. This makes them the oldest of the Five Orders of The Balance, which is the name of the Church.
During prehistoric times many cultures believed that evil spirits would reanimated dead bodies. To avoid this the corpses were burned and the ash crushed.
Touching a dead person was often taboo, so only a few were allowed to do so. In return for that act they had to repent for this through their life. Often it meant a humble lifestyle focused on good deeds and selflessness.
A lot of these believes and taboos are gone now, but the Order of Ash and their Ashen Men remain an important part to the Church of Balance.
Specific to this religion is that every Order and member represents two sides of a single aspect of life. With the Order of Ash this is not only death, but also life.
Expectant mothers can come to them for support and guidance. Female members of the Order often act as midwives during birth. A child is marked with ash as soon all the necessary checks are done.
The Brothers of Ash care for the abandoned and weak, especially orphans. They run large orphanages in the cities. A common sight is to find a Brother of Ash standing on the corner of a large street gathering donations for their many charities. Those who donate have a small ash dot placed on their head. Many give to have that mark.
It is believed that an act of kindness can wash out sin. Touching the dead still being sin, means that their acts of good are also a selfish way to cleanse their own soul.
Similarly many criminals will attempt to justify their criminal behaviour by donating vast sums to the Ash Charities. This has led to the Church allowing crime as it funds their needs. Their belief is not about good and evil, but about balance.
Brothers of Ash provide care for animals and plants. The first day of the year, called Soil Day, Ash is spread on local fields. It is believed that this aids in getting a good harvest.
They also will provide aid to veterinarians in delivering animals.
Ash-Houses are the central gathering place for mass which takes place on every full moon, ten times per year. The Ash-House contains ten wooden statues representing the Ten Forces that guide the world.
On the last day of the year these statues are burned. A mooncycle later the year starts again with the spreading of this ash on soil day. The time in between is known as The Time of Rebirth. It is a time for rest and reflection.
The Order spends this time crafting these intricate statues once more. Knowing they’ll eventually be burned at the end of the year. It doesn’t bother them, as they realize the same is true for the Gods and for life itself.
During this time of rebirth none of the dead are burned, but instead burried in shallow grades to be dug up and burned after.
The Ash of the dead is spread on Ashenfields. There is one in every major city: a vast sea of ash and bone. Beside the fields are Mourning Trees, a specially created tree that bears a fruit called Sweet Death.
The consumption of the fruit means a painless and comfortable death and is often used by the elderly as ritual suicide.
Men of Ash perform autopsy on every dead person passing their way. They take out any organs that may provide useful to others and give them to Grimmbreakers. In an attempt to understand death they also perform experiments on the dead.
As the Men of Ash are figures of the fleetingness of life they care very little for the material world. This can be seen in the clothing they wear, which are often ragged and simple. Life is afterall always about death.