While difficult to understand for outsiders, and just as difficult to explain in a non-M’rowan language, aza’i appears to be a personal quality or characteristic that determines social standing and leadership rank in M’rowan groups and societies. Evidence from M’rowan legends and myths suggests that aza’i was originally tied to an individual’s abilities as a hunter, but to how great a degree this is still true in the modern M’rowan society is doubtful. It appears that even individuals engaged in professions or pursuits that have nothing at all to do with hunting can still aquire very high levels of aza’i.
What is known is that disagreements between individuals over their relative standing of aza’i can be resolved through the Aza’i’razzht, a formalized knife duel. Supposedly, the winner of the duel emerges as the one with the superior aza’i. This would suggest that there remains a core martial or predatory element to the concept.
Non-M’rowan species, even otherwise humanoid ones such as Humans or Ssitrans are not believed to have a’zai, and are therefore viewed as inherently inferior to M’rowans. The same goes for M’rowans who have been enslaved as punishment for a crime, who are also deemd to have forfeited their a’zai.
While most M’rowan share a fundamental belief in the broad concept of aza’i, many different interpretations exist of what exactly aza’i is. In many ways, these interpretations are as varied as the definition of a ‘soul’ would be among Earth religions. The four interpretations listed below are the major known ones, but others are likely to exist.
1. Aza’i as an individual, non-transferable quality
This interpretation holds that each individual’s aza’i is separate, unique quality the strength of which only depends on that individual’s actions and merits. Each newly-born M’rowan receives a ‘fresh’ aza’i, and upon their death, it dissolves or (in certain traditions) rejoins with the universe. This is the most widespread and ‘mainstream’ interpretation in the Commonwealth.
2. Aza’i as an individual, inheritable quality
The Aza-i-russht interpretation, which is more akin to a belief in reincarnation or ancestor worship, holds that the aza’i of worthy hunters survive their death and is handed down to future members of the same clan. Aza-i-russht is somewhat less common than the ‘non-transferable’ interpretation above, but still considered entirely normal among most M’rowans.
3. Aza’i as a collective quality
Some M’rowans hold to a more collective view of aza’i, believing that groups such as hunting parties, ship’s crews, etc. have a separate aza’i which reinforces and strengthens the group and its individual members. Often, a particular item is selected to be ‘imbued’ with the group a’zai and to act as a focus for the group, not unlike the way a katra figure is used to represent families.
This belief is especially widespread among Clans R’rr’cha and Ch’thauri, while many others find it exceedingly strange, although tolerable.
4. Aza’i as a quality that can be absorbed
A more rare and exclusive tradition is the warrior-cult Grsht’za’i, which holds that a M’rowan can increase his or her personal aza’i through defeating enemies in personal combat and absorbing their life force. Most M’rowans, even among the Cruz’zht, would say that this is complete nonsense (although they’d probably not say it directly to a Grsht’za’i).