The Church of the Bone Lord

The Church of the Bone Lord is a continent spanning organisation that leads the faithful in worship of Myrkul, the Lord of Bones. It is a disparate organisation led by the Conclave of Doom in Tulmon.

History

Myrkul is believed by scholars of ancient history to be a mortal princeling known as Myrkul Bey Al’Kursi from the far off land of Murghom, whose name is documented in the annals of history of Jhaamdath, Netheril, and Raurin (all of which suffered terrible calamities), and whose name means Myrkul Lord of the Kursi People.

Myrkul is believed to have dabbled in the mystic arts and more specifically necromantic arts, drawing knowledge and power from the ruins of ancient Imaskar before becoming embroiled in events that led to the downfall of many kingdoms in Raurin. He then travelled far and wide to great empires of magical lore such as Netheril and Jhaamdath, again becoming involved in events that would lead to the destruction of both.

It is believed that Myrkul; along with his companions Bane and Bhaal, were attempting to achieve godhood by stealing the power of quasi-divine beings for themselves. Wherever Myrkul travelled he established cults of followers that venerated him as the divine being he claimed to be. Examples of these cults were the Cult of the Kalahb, Cult of Bones, Cult of Skulls.

Cult of the Kalahb: The Cult of the Kalahb was the first of Myrkul’s cults of personality, established around -500 DR after Myrkul became Bey (head) of the Al’Kursi tribe of Murghom. Myrkul formed a close council of his favoured kin known as a Rak’Sha (honour guard), and together they plundered the Imaskari ruins of Raurin to the south, growing mighty in magic and power. 

After the rulers of Mulhorand discovered the crimes of Myrkul, the Cult of the Kalahb was exiled from Mulhorandi controlled territory, and those that they caught were cursed into a bestial form befitting their crimes.

Only the noble sons of the Al’Hanar escaped this curse and they kept their worship of Myrkul and fled south to the Shaar where they established a fortress home known as Castle Al’Hanar in the Toadsquat Mountains and subjugated the surrounding human tribes. In -106 DR warriors from Castle Al’Hanar came upon the home of the Everlasting Wyrm and defeated it in an epic battle, discovering the imprisoned demon lord Eltab within.

Eltab convinced the 12 lords of the Al’Hanar to free him in return for 99 years of his service, and with Eltab’s aid the Al’Hanar conquered the surrounding lands, including the city of Shandaular, and formed the Theocracy of Eltabranar, dedicated to worshipping Myrkul (although tainted by Eltab’s influence).

Eltabranar vied for dominion over the Shaar with many nearby powers, before drawing the ire of both Unther and Mulhorand following an unwise invasion of those lands (manipulated into happening by Eltab so he could be free of his servitude to the Al’Hanar). After brief victories, Eltab was supposedly banished by the Mulhorandi and the Eltabranar offensive collapsed. Within a few years the Mulhorandi and Untheric armies descended upon Eltabranar and destroyed it, sending its population and the Cult of Kalahb to southern lands like Dambrath and Estagund.

The Cult of the Kalahb still survives today in the Knights of the Undying Dragon that still operate out of the ruins of Castle Al’Hanar, these immortal undead warriors are locked in an eternal battle with the dracolich they slew to release Eltab, with each reforming to continue the fight after a defeat.

The Cult of Bones: Myrkul and the Dark Three ventured into the lands of Jhaamdath around -360 DR, spreading chaos and unrest in their wake. Myrkul established another cult, known as the Cult of Bones for the bone covered robes he wore and his chosen moniker (the Lord of Bones).

The Cult of Bones became very active in the final years of Jhaamdath, experimenting with various means of undeath using the vast supplies of corpses made available by years of warfare. The tsunami that destroyed Jhaamdath spread the Cult of Bones south along one of the well used trade routes to Calimshan, where it found a home in the city of Tulmon.

The Cult of Bones spread out of Tulmon to Calimshan and back into the Vilhon Reach when it was resettled. Much of the power of the modern Church of the Bone Lord comes from the Cult of Bones.

The Cult of Skulls: As in Murghom and Jhaamdath, when Myrkul made his way to Netheril he established a cult to worship himself in preparation for his ascension to godhood.

This cult was focused mostly upon the eastern lands of Netheril and found particular favour among the aspiring arcanists that could not hope to join the ranks of the Archwizards (without considerable luck and outside assistance), but were as reviled as their superiors by the common folk of Low Netheril.

Independent arcanists fled the fall of Netheril by magical means and more than a few were able to reach the Savage North. The cultists maintained contact with one another and setup a network of towers and wizard’s holds that became foci for Netherese refugees and places for the Cult of Skulls to re-establish itself.

The refugees of Low Netheril abandoned their traditional gods out of spite for the evils they suffered, and instead a wave of new religions arose out of the merging of local beliefs with migrant worship. Jergal was one of the gods abandoned because of his seeming indifference to the plight of the Netherese, and instead people turned to the worship of Myrkul the Skull Lord offered by the Cult of Skulls.

The Cult of Skulls influence waxed and waned as the North became dominated by Illuskan, Tethyrian, and Illuskan migrations that led to an influx of more religious beliefs and suspicion (under the Illuskans) or acceptance (under the Tethyrians) of magical practicioners.

The Cult of Skulls was dealt a final death blow in 1021 DR when the lichlords of the cult arose to deliver vengeance against the Harpers for the destruction of an allied order or necromancers in the previous year known as the Wearers of the Skull. Each of the lichlords emerged in turn to attack Harper agents and allies all over the North (hoping to defeat what they thought was a weakened foe). Instead the lichlords expended almost their entire strength, and left the Cult of Skulls bereft of leadership.

The Cult of Cyruk: While the Cult of Skulls was formed by Netherese Arcanist followers of Myrkul fleeing west to the Savage North, the Cult of Cyruk was formed by an amalgamation of two groups of Netherese migrants. The leaders of the cult came from the ranks of necromancers out of Asram that had formed a secret society of Myrkulites known as the Claws of Arlochar and who came to dominate the kingdom of nearby Teshar through magical means.

Cyruk (possibly taken from a corruption of the orcish word for bones) meanwhile was a god of the Moonsea North adopted by the Netherese migrants and survivors of Barze that mingled with the more tolerant barbarians from the Ride and Thar and borrowed a number of ancestor spirits from them including Cyruk who devoured the bodies of the dead.

The Claws of Arlochar gave a more civilised structure to this ancestor spirit worship (that resembled a ghoulish bogeyman in folklore) that spread throughout the Moonsea North. The Cult of the Skull later expanded into the Moonsea North, teaching the people that Cyruk was actually the same as Myrkul. When the Cult of the Skull was ended and replaced by the Church of the Bone Lord, Cyruk became just another name of Myrkul.

The Church of the Bone Lord: In the aftermath of the destruction of the Cult of Skulls, the Cult of Bones expanded north to fill the void, absorbing the surviving worshippers of Myrkul (and a few remaining lichlords that retreated into hiding), they were brought into the fold of the new Church of the Bone Lord, ruled from the Conclave of Doom that convenes in the Skullspire in the city of Tulmon.

Organisation

Headquarters: Lake of Steam, Tulmon, the Skullspire

Members: 4,800 clergy

Hierarchy: Strict

Leader: The Conclave of Doom

Religion: Myrkul

Secrecy: Medium

Symbol: A white skull on a black triangle surrounded by tiny fingerbones. An archaic symbol used by the Cult of Skulls was that of a white skull with a skeletal hand issuing from its mouth, this is still used by some groups of Myrkulites in the Savage and Moonsea North.

The Church of the Bone Lord is more strictly organised the closer one is to the headquarters in Tulmon.

The church is led by a council known as the Conclave of Doom that convenes regularly in the Skullspires in Tulmon. Elder Dooms (the most senior priest of Myrkul today) form the membership of the Conclave of Doom and are in constant residence at Skullspires unless on some special mission elsewhere.

The edicts of the Conclave of Doom are delivered to Deathbringers in the major temples (or shrines where no temples yet exist) for the various nations or major regions of Faerun. These Deathbringers command a number of Undead Masters, each of whom runs a temple and the priests of varying ranks in attendance (listed in descending order); Ritual Consecrator, Bone Dancer, Crypt Carver, Shroud Wearer, Bone Talker, Night Walker, Daring Death, and Daring One (novices).

Each rank usually has a specific role in a temple or at a shrine. Ritual Consecrators are responsible for leading the daily consecrations of the temple and items to Myrkul, including the creation of religious artefacts. Bone Dancers lead the Ritual of Bones. Crypt Carvers are responsible for the creation and maintenance of skull and other carvings in and around the temple. Shroud Wearers deal with the proper burial rites. Bone Talkers are responsible for dealing with errant undead and managing the undead guardians at temples and shrines. Night Walkers usually lead small groups of wandering priests that are more commonly found in frontier regions that have few or no dedicated temples (such as the Savage Frontier). Daring Deaths deal with most daily chores in a temple or shrine and are assisted by Daring Ones.

The Withering Lords are a special rank of priest that have been blessed with the knowledge of a spell known to the Church of the Bone Lord, Wither. This spell is used in a ceremony celebrating the appointment of a new Elder Doom. Withering Lords and the Wither spell were originally part of the Cult of Skulls, and were brought into the Church of the Bone Lord to augment the prestige of its most senior clergy and to help those cultists to adjust when they were absorbed into the new church.

There are other titles, now used as honorifics for prestigious individuals, that were once part of the hierarchy of the Cult of Skulls, such as “Deaths”, and “Most Holy Deaths”. The high priest of the Cult of Skulls were known as the Mouth of Myrkul, a particularly power individual that was able to cow the leadership of several cells of the Cult of Skulls, there have only been a handful of these individuals in the history of this cult and they were all energetic and widely feared, but it is believed none of these individuals remain alive today.

Dogma / Motivation / Goals

The Church of the Bone Lord preaches to the laity that death comes to us all, and the dead belong to Myrkul. The priests of Myrkul (known as Doombringers in the Savage and Moonsea North, or Anointed in all other lands) are there to assist the proper and inevitable transition from life to death. 

Priests of Myrkul provide the proper funerary rites to the recently deceased to ensure that the dead remain so, and may travel on to Myrkul’s domain uninterrupted. They are renowned for being calm and reserved during an otherwise emotional moment in people’s lives. When the dead do return as the undead, the priests of Myrul seek to reintegrate them into their former lives where possible, or find them a new purpose in unlife, in the most extreme cases where the undead pose a danger to the living the priests of Myrkul dispose of these creatures.

It is a common belief in the Savage and Moonsea North that anyone who harms a priest of Myrkul can expect death to come to them quickly, with whispers that Myrkul sends his agents to exact vengeance upon transgressors, this belief has spread south over time and as of the 14th century Dalereckoning it is common knowledge in most places in Faerun. It is thought that this belief originates from the 11th century Dalereckoning conflict between the Harpers and the Cult of Skulls, wherein scores of liches and their servants attacked Harpers and their allies in retaliation for the destruction of a group known as the Wearers of the Skull which were allied to the Cult of Skulls.

Despite the seemingly benign services offered by the Church of the Bone Lord, it is widely whispered that some of Myrkul’s clergy have a darker purpose regarding the dead and the undead. This silent opinion is further reinforced by adventurers uncovering many dark plots often involving the faithful of Myrkul (although the Church is quick to label those caught as renegades or heretics if pressed about their allegiance).

In times past the Cult of Skulls in particular were well known for their sponsorship of undead and used them to prey upon the living to spread a culture of fear among the general populace. The Church of the Bone Lord tries to maintain a more neutral public opinion in most places, but rumours still persist.

Dogma: The priests of Myrkul are outwardly charged by their faith with delivering proper funerary rites, providing advice on all matters relating to death and the dying, seeing to other secular needs when called upon (births, marriages, etc), and dealing with undead infestations.

Dresscode: Priests of Myrkul are expected to wear attire that increases the fear and apprehension experienced when one meets the Anointed. Traditional dress robes include a black robe with hooded cowl and a sash of bone-white cloth tied around the waist. The face is covered by a skull mask from the forehead to the upper cheeks. Any exposed flesh is darkened with ash.

Canon: Secretly the priests of Myrkul were tasked with spreading fear throughout the population to ensure the dominance of the Church of the Bone Lord in all matters of death and undeath. This was accomplished through their quiet and reserved mannerisms (even in the face of extreme situations), their fearsome dress code and the architecture of buildings, the spreading of stories about the deeds of great Anointed of the past, and more importantly by using the undead as a weapon against those who transgress the faith of Myrkul.

Priests of Myrkul are to encourage and defend those who are interested in the necromantic pursuits. This involves providing advice to those studying undeath or the undead, perhaps giving them small insights that will improve their chances of success, in return the Anointed are to obtain a boon from their services that increase cooperation between the necromancer and the Church of Myrkul, the end goal is to convert these necromancers to become faithful followers of Myrkul in return for ever greater secrets in the arts of necromancy.

While priests of Myrkul are outwardly charged with dealing with undead infestations (most common folk understand that to mean the undead will be destroyed), the Anointed are often responsible for secretly creating the infestation through certain funerary rites (performed when people do not pay for the proper services or mistreat the Anointed or just to increase fear of the undead) that bring the recently dead back to life. When undead appear that are not created by the Myrkul’s priests, these are often dealt with by relocation to another region to plague the local populace and require more interventions from the Church of the Bone Lord.

Lastly, a priest of Myrkul must ensure that any deemed responsible for inflicting injury or death upon a priest of Myrkul must suffer the most painful of deaths, and then ensure news of that death is spread far and wide so that all can see what happens to those who transgress against Myrkul. If this death involves being devoured alive by undead then all the better.

Ceremonies / Festivals / Rituals

The Anointing: This ceremony is held for every initiate as part of the process of becoming a Daring One (acolyte). This solemn ritual is held deep in the catacombs of the nearest temple of Myrkul, where the potential acolyte is led blindfolded, past the undead guardians, to the tombs of past Undead Masters (or in rare circumstances Deathbringers).

Once at the chosen tomb, the prospective acolyte is made to speak with the dead (via the spell – which they must normally cast themselves unless the acolyte is unable to in which case a priest casts it for them). The deceased high priest of the temple judges the worthiness of the acolyte, in rare circumstances the undead guardians of the tomb slay the acolyte and he is judged unworthy, in even rarer circumstances it is said that Myrkul himself speaks through the vessel of the high priest and his judgement echoes loudly through the catacombs.

The Anointing is usually performed at midnight, and only the priests of Myrkul are welcome.

The Day the Dead Are Most With Us: A celebration held on the Feast of the Moon

The Dusking: This ritual is the official burial ceremony offered by the Church of the Bone Lord. It involves the family and friends of the recently deceased gathering about a table or block where the attendees made offerings to Myrkul on behalf of the deceased, the priest of Myrkul then performed a number of rituals and ceremonies to ensure the dead a swift passage to Myrkul (and more importantly to ensure they do not return as undead). The corpse or remains were then interred in the local traditional fashion.

Wandering priests of Myrkul (Night Walkers and their assisting Daring Ones and Daring Deaths) usually provide the services for remote communities as they travel around a region, in which case bodies are sometimes stored or burned and the remains kept for a later time. The ceremonial is opened and closed with the tolling of a deep bell. Offerings are allowed and encouraged, even from those that do not pay homage to Myrkul often (or at all). The emphasis of the ceremony is on the life of the recently deceased, and how death will soon come for everyone.

The Withering of Elders: This sacred ritual is performed in secret at the top of Skullspire in Tulmon on the night of a full moon following the death of one of the Elder Dooms of the Conclave of Doom to appoint a replacement. The prospective Elder Doom undergoes many ceremonies involving sacred oils, relics, robes, chants, etc.

The final ceremony of the ritual involves 3 Withering Lords in attendance casting the spell Wither and placing their hands upon the head of the recipient. If the recipient survives, the skin on his head is withered and thinned until it resembles little more than a skull with some greying skin stretched over it, and he may rise as one of the Elder Doom of the Conclave of Doom.

Those that perish are viewed as being unworthy in the judgement of Myrkul. In very rare instances, such as happened relatively recently with Elder Doom Kalia, the recipient is completely unaffected by the Wither spells and retains their vigour, these individuals are viewed as favoured by Myrkul and their voices hold greater weight within the Conclave of Doom and the Church of the Bone Lord.

Membership / Recruiting

Despite the modern Church of Myrkul being much less malign than previous incarnations (such as the Cult of Skulls), the Church of the Bone Lord is not a popular choice of profession for most people, except for those with a fascination for the dead and a desire to provide funerary advice to the common folk.

The average priesthood of Myrkul is recruited from the stable pool of orphans in regions with a strong Myrkulite presence (Lake of Steam, Calimshan, Thay), which are orphaned due to wars, disease, wandering monsters, and many other varieties of evils visited upon the common folk of Faerun. These orphans are brought to temples of Myrkul and well cared for by the priests while being trained to become the next generation of Myrkulites.

In times past people were recruited to become priests of Myrkul from among the ranks of magic users that aspired to become budding necromancers, or those desiring to achieve lichdom. In both cases priests of Myrkul would offer their services in return for boons to the church, and eventually manipulated into taking part in ceremonies to Myrkul with the hopes of converting them to become true faithful of Myrkul in return for ever deeper secrets into mastery of undeath. This method of recruitment was most favoured by the Cult of Skulls, and has dwindled greatly as that cult was nearly obliterated in its conflict with the Harpers 3 centuries ago.

Allies

The Church of the Bone Lord has a long standing alliance with the faithful of Bane and Bhaal. This alliance has existed since the worship of the Dark Three began, and is founded in the alliance those godlings had before they ascended.

The Church of the Bone Lord has long since absorbed the failing Church of the Lord of the End of Everything (which worships Jergal), and it is now considered a vassal organisation within the Church of the Bone Lord, expected to follow the edicts of the Conclave of Doom, but allowed to keep their own dogma and canon as long as that does not violate the rulings of the Conclave of Doom.

In Thay the Church of the Bone Lord has vassalised the Cult of Sorrow (one of the incarnations of the Sharran cults) and much like the Church of Jergal, this cult now exists wholly within the temples of Myrkul in Thay.

Knights of the Undying Dragon: This order of crusaders is the last surviving remnant of the Theocracy of Eltabranarr, located within the ruins of Castle Al’Hanar, south of Sharawood in the Eastern Shaar. This order’s membership consists of more than a hundred undead knights of varying abilities that are dedicated to Myrkul and long ago made a pact with Eltab to defeat the dragon guarding him.

Unfortunately for the Knights of the Undying Dragon, this dragon continually returns as some kind of dracolich that required the knights to continue to defeat it long after their death, and every century the Knights of the Undying Dragon ride forth to destroy the Everlasting Wyrm of the Sharawood once again.

The Knights of the Undying Dragon welcome other worshippers of Myrkul and can be called upon by the Church of the Bone Lord to perform various services, but they conform to ancient and archaic forms of worshipping Myrkul that were prevalent over a thousand years ago when Myrkul still lived in Murghom, and do not consider themselves part of the Church of the Bone Lord.

Important NPCs

Bone Dancer Jorykul (Evil, Half Human – Half Orc, Magic User 6): Jorykul is a thick set humanoid with greyish skin and purple highlights, and course black hair covering his face and body.

Jorykul is the result of an orc attack from the High Moors on a small farm east of Secomber in 1334 DR. Despite the common occurence of these attacks, Jorykul is uncommon in that he was raised by his mother (rather than abandoned at birth) for 8 years before she died and he was evicted by his uncle who coveted his sister’s lands.

Jorykul spent his teenage years among various bandit groups before joining the Church of the Bone Lord, Jorykul is a member of the Bone Wings heresy that is more common in the Sword Coast north around the lands north of Daggerford and has achieved the rank of Bone Dancer. Jorykul recently joined the Black Brew cell of the Cult of the Dragon in 1352 DR after being recruited by its leader Kelthas the Dread to be his second in command.

Daring Death Dappleford Serendusk (Evil, Human – Tethyrian, Magic User 2): Dappleford Serendusk is a priest in the Church of the Bone Lord, having attained the rank of Daring Death. Dappleford is a member of the Bone Wings heresy and is currently in service to Jorykul in the Black Brew cell of the Cult of the Dragon.

Dappleford originally hails from Baldur’s Gate but travelled north to Luskan as a young adult seeking to increase his power with the Arcane Brotherhood. Instead he was tempted into the service of Myrkul by those of the Bone Wing heresy and is now working with the Cult of the Dragon.

Daring Death Izeley Veldinsparr (Evil, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 2): Izeley Veldinsparr is a priest in the Church of the Bone Lord, having attained the rank of Daring Death. Izeley was sent with a number of other priests from Westgate to the Sword Coast (his superiors were on a mission to investigate the Bone Wings heresy and correct or eradicate its errant teachings). Izeley was unaware of the mission, and following their deaths at the hands of Bone Wings heretics, found himself easily converted by the mystique of dracolich worship.

Izeley currently serves Jorykul in the Black Brew cell of the Cult of the Dragon.

Ritual Consecrator Prendael Bardlinel (Evil, Human – Tethyrian, Magic User 9): Prendael Bardlinel is a priest in the Church of the Bone Lord of the rank Ritual Consecrator. He is a vicious and vengeful man that is shunned even by those of his own faith, but he is skilled in the art of repairing and creating relics and has created a number of powerful magical items in service to his temple.

Prendael has lived his entire life in Baldur’s Gate; orphaned by an out of control wizards duel, he was adopted by priests from the nearby temple and inducted into the faith of Myrkul. Angry at the death of his parents and a life he feels was stolen from him, Prendael has spent the last 40+ years brooding in the catacombs and sewers of Baldur’s Gate, with only his animated skeletons for company.

Shroud Wearer Nalauthiir (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 6): An unassuming priest of Myrkul living in the settlement of Reth on the Vilhon Reach. Nalauthiir is a Shroud Wearer and is dedicated to ensuring the locals of Reth receive proper burials. He does not agree with the lax practices of some of his fellow priests and takes extra precautions to ensure that none of his interred corpses will unexpectedly rise from the grave.

Stongor “Bonebag” Miyar (Evil, Human – Tethyrian, Magic User 15) *Deceased*:Strongor “Bonebag” Miyar was a son of the Miyar noble family of Baldur’s Gate, he was also a member of the Knights of the Shield and a follower of Algashon Nathaire. Strongor shunned the life of a wainwright and instead embraced the study of necromancy and a life of adventure promised by Algashon.

Strongor was one of the first outside of Sembia to embrace the newly founded Cult of the Dragon in the early 10th century Dalereckoning. He rose quickly through the ranks and was personally gifted with one of the first copies of the Tome of the Dragon in 911 DR.

Unfortunately Strongor’s evil deeds and membership of the diabolical cult were discovered and he was driven from the city where he fled north. Strongor attempted to establish a number of Cult of the Dragon cells in cities on the Sword Coast North before being driven from each in turn and into the Mere of Dead Men where he chanced upon the lair of Chardansearavitriol.

Strongor wooed the ageing dragon with secrets from the Tome of the Dragon and the promise of immortality. Chardansearavitriol accepted and underwent the transformation successfully and with the power of a dracolich at his disposal Strongor gathered a band of loyal Myrkulites to his banner and established his own form of worshipping Myrkul known today as the Bone Wing Heresy.

Strongor greatly expanded his power across the Sword Coast North, forcing many cells of the Cult of Skulls to join his banner. In time he declared himself the “Mouth of Myrkul” and came to threaten trade in the north with his plagues and undead creations until orcs from Uruth Ukrypt attacked and destroyed a new temple to Myrkul in the northern foothills of the Sword Mountains that Strongor was visiting in 929 DR.

Chardansearavitriol (Evil, Black Dragon – Dracolich, Magic User 10): Chardansearavitriol, known as Ebondeath, was an aged black dragon that used to plague realm of Phalorm many centuries ago, and it was the elves of that nation that first gave him his nickname.

In 631 DR Chardansearavitriol moved into the crumbling ruins of Uthtower amid the growing Mere of Dead Men and claimed the territory for his own. He spent most of his time preying upon the orcs of the Sword Mountains and so his presence went unnoticed by the civilised peoples of the Sword Coast North.

In 921 DR a charismatic and powerful priest of Myrkul known as Strongor Bonebag stumbled upon Ebondeath’s lair. An accord was struck between the two, for Ebondeath was intrigued by the ideas of Strongor and his promise of a new process that would grant a dragon immortality. In 922 DR Ebondeath retreated from contact with the outside world (an event noticed only by the orcs of the Sword Mountains) and underwent the transformation process to become a dracolich.

Strongor and Chardansearavitriol worked together to spread the power of the Ebondeath cell, subdueing groups of Myrkul worshippers from the Cult of Skulls across the North, and elevating Strongor Bonebag to the position of Mouth of Myrkul. Chardansearavitriol however chafed under the control Strongor exerted over him and desired to be free of the magical chains that fettered him.

Strongor began building an army of undead using the plentiful orcs of the Sword Mountains, and so began devising a means to slay them in large numbers (without risking his own power). Stronger and Chardansearavitriol (with his extensive knowledge of orcs and his growing magical powers) worked on a series of plagues that would later be known as the Blood Plagues.

The Blood Plagues were unleashed upon the Sword Mountains in 927 DR and proved devastatingly effective, slaying every humanoid in the region, except orcs. Chardansearavitriol had betrayed Strongor and deliberately left the orcs untouched, knowing that their voracity would lead them to dominate the region in the absence of any other humanoid presence. Strongor was furious and kept Chardansearavitriol imprisoned beneath Uthtower, but was still able to animate huge numbers of undead from the other dead humanoids in the region.

Ultimately the orcs united into the kingdom of Uruth Ukrypt, and they attacked Strongor’s new temple and slew Strongor, which freed Chardansearavitriol from his magical control, but not his imprisonment beneath the ruins of Uthtower.

For 300 years Chardansearavitriol remained trapped, but used his time wisely to develop his magical learning and his devotion to Myrkul. He evntually achieved a feat of power given to few Myrkulites known as the Hand of Myrkul, which he used on himself to escape his magical bonds and to begin the first step of his transformation into a new form akin to a draconic form of demi-lichdom.

Chardansearavitriol is nothing more than dust and bones, but when the Eye of Myrkul is in ascendance he can reanimate his body. During this time and using the Hand of Myrkul he hopes to steal the souls of other dragons into carefully prepared soul trap vessels (he has chosen the Rings of Myrkul). Once this step is complete he will be able to animate whenever he wishes and be truly immortal unless all of his soul vessels are destroyed.

Elder Doom Kalia (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 15): One of the Elder Dooms of the Church of the Bone Lord, Kalia is a member of the Conclave of Doom and one of the most famous priests of Myrkul in the realms. Kalia has retained her fine and beautiful face even after having undergone the Withering of Elders, which many take as a sign of favour from Myrkul.

Despite her position on the ruling council of the church, Kalia prefers to spend as much time as possible in the field spreading the word of Myrkul far and wide. She has a habit of appearing unexpectedly at the site of large, impending battles, often in the position of a field commander. Her presence spells doom for one or both sides, and casualties are always incredibly high. The last thing many innocents see is the lovely sight of Kalia in her black robes bearing a finely embroidered skull.

Damien Morienus (Evil, Human – Illuskan, Magic User 13): Damien Morienus was the Overmaster of the North Tower of the Arcane Brotherhood in Luskan, a talented wizard with a desire for knowledge and a fetish for the occult, he rediscovered many ancient secrets of the Arcane Brotherhood and became obsessed with achieving lichdom.

Damien entreated a powerful Myrkulite priest known as Yarmuth the Brown, to help him achieve immortality as a lich, eventually converting to the worship of Myrkul himself and training a cadre of Myrkul worshipping assistants. As his goal neared completion in 1233 DR Damien retreated to his tower in far off Icewind Dale in order to undergo the transformation. 

For some unknown reason Yarmuth was slain by Damien’s servants while Damien was performing the ritual, and Yarmuth cursed the entire tower so that none would find the restful sleep of death within its confines. Ultimately Damien’s transformation was interrupted by two fiends he had summoned that escaped his control and returned to kill him. He returned from the dead as an undead crypt thing destined to protect his ruined tower for all eternity.

Damien is still an incredibly devout member of the Church of the Bone Lord, and he has knowledge of such rituals that allow the caster to achieve lichdom, or to raise towers of stone as was done with the Hosttower of the Arcane.

Dendybar the Mottled (Evil, Human – Illuskan, Magic User 13): Dendybar is an enigma, even among the secretive wizards of the Arcane Brotherhood. A frail and withered old man that appears to have achieved a state of existence somewhere between life and death, none are certain of his age or even his true name. Dendybar appears to be searching for the secret of lichdom, sending his apprentices and agents out to gather recipes and reagents, however, Dendybar’s actions include arranging the death of Morkai the Red who was searching for the fate of Damien Morienus and the details of his ritual for lichdom, even though it was Dendybar himself who funnelled knowledge of Damien Morienus (Dendybar’s former master) to Morkai through his apprentice Akar Kessel.

Dendybar’s always cowled head resembles little more than a skull covered with a thin and withered layer of skin which belies his true origins as a priest of Myrkul, for this mark is achieved by carefully controlled and repeated applications of the Wither spell and is reserved only for the highest ranking or most accomplished of priests.

Dendybar’s career in the Arcane Brotherhood began as an apprentice of Damien Morienus in the 13th century Dalereckoning, and if anyone discovers his devotion to Myrkul he claims he was converted by Damien, but in truth Dendybar is likely much older than that because the Skull Mark is reserved only for members of the Conclave of Doom that head the Church of the Bone Lord in the modern age, and it died out in the Savage North in the early 11th century Dalereckoning when the Cult of Skulls was destroyed by the Harpers.

Deathbringer Antara Bones (Neutral, Human – Shaaran, Magic User 9): Antara Bones is a Deathbringer of Myrkul, responsible for overseeing all the temples of Myrkul within Lapaliiya and the Shaar. She is among the more honest worshippers of Myrkul and rarely uses the undead as a weapon to increase the fear and prestige of the Church of the Bone Lord.

Deathbringer Dhimar (Evil, Human – Mulan, Magic User 10): Dhimar is the Deathbringer of Thay responsible for overseeing the activities of all temples and priests in Thay.

Night Walker Viandos Rippek (Evil, Human – Mulan, Magic User 9): Viandos Rippek is a roaming priest of Myrkul from Thay that has been sent out to preach in the lands around Thay (mostly because his homicidal and other unsociable personality traits were unwelcome even in Thay).

Viandos has used his freedom to wander widely and explore the ruins of Imaskar, searching for ancient magics and lost legacies of Myrkul (whom he has discovered once lived in Murghom). Viandos has discovered a magical ritual that will transform him into a horned creature that will have greater control over undead beings, and Viandos believes this was once used by followers of Myrkul in Murghom and Semphar over a millennia ago.

Elder Doom Esprelus Morammon (Neutral, Human – Calishite, Magic User 11): Esprelus is a former adventurer and Night Walker that retired to Tulmon and quickly rose within the ranks of the church thanks to his experiences. Esprelus is now one of the Elder Doom that rules the Church of the Bone Lord through the Conclave of Doom in Skullspire. Esprelus is among the more moderate members of the church, keen to promote its services in controlling undead outbreaks rather than causing them, if only to avoid a repeat of events of the past like the war with the Harpers in 1020 DR.

Elder Doom Haaeluth Muribaert (Neutral, Human – Calishite, Magic User 14): Haaeluth Muribaert is one of the Elder Doom of the Conclave of Doom, and as a result is involved in the decision making for the Church of the Bone Lord. Haaeluth has been nominated the speaker for the Conclave of Doom and so chairs all sessions of the Conclave and signs all the official proclamations on behalf of the Conclave, in recognition of his position he is given the honorary title of Deep Elder Doom.

Haaeluth is a cold hearted old man that always remains impassive and impartial, no matter the circumstances. He is known for wandering among the lesser priests of the Skullspire to check on their devotion.

Night Walker Shren (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 5): Shren is a darkly attractive woman with dark brown hair and eyes. She is coldly detached from everyone and everything around her, but enjoys deceiving and manipulating others to get her own way. Shren has been assigned to wander the frontier lands in and around Cormyr, preaching to the laity and improving the image of the Church of the Bone Lord. She supplements the meagre purse she was given to complete this decade long mission by signing on with adventuring companies, using her magic to heal and protect her comrades, however her faith means she is most often signed by the less scrupulous adventuring companies.

Night Walker Emana Gortho (Evil, Human – Vaasan, Magic User 5): Emana Gortho is a wandering priest of Myrkul assigned to the Moonsea region. She has recently joined the Zhentarim and has been sent on missions as far afield as the Western Heartlands. Emana Gortho is cold and beautiful but has a streak of instability that manifests when in stressful situation.

Daring Death Dardres Halamer (Evil, Human – Tethyrian, Magic User 3): Dardres Halamer is a junior priest in the Church of the Bone Lord, sent to the Western Heartlands to work with the Zhentarim in Darkhold while providing funerary services to the settlements around the Sunset Vale.

Daring Death Lorelei Gravesower (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Magic User 3): Lorelei is one of the priests of Myrkul assisting the Night Walker in Cormyr. She is stationed almost permanently in the settlement of Thunderstone where she tends to the graveyard and its inhabitants.

Shroud Wearer Bezurgathan Indraeyan (Neutral, Human – Chondathan, Expert 8): A diligent and strict man that ensures funerary practices run like clock work in the city of Ormath.

Crypt Carver Yazind (Neutral, Human – Calishite, Expert 5): Yazind is one of the most senior Necroppari on Nykkar the Isle of Memory, where she maintains a catalogue of every known burial, tomb desecration, undead sighting, and grave theft in Calimshan including copies of the records from the previous Nykkar necropolises. 

Undead Master Vraer (Evil, Human – Tethyrian, Magic User 9): Vraer is the high priest of Myrkul in Scornubel.

Spheres of Influence

Amn: There has been a long standing influence of the worship of the Dark Three in the region dating from the time of Shoon.

Mountain of Skulls: Situated deep in the Cloud Peaks mountain range is a cave shaped like an enormous skull. The Mountain of Skulls is believed to be an ancient hideaway of the Dark Three and has been occupied by various cult cells of Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul. Recently it has been consecrated by the True Church of Bane although shrines to Bhaal and Myrkul still exist and their worshippers are welcome.

Calimshan: The worship of Myrkul in Calimshan has a long history from around 2 centuries before the beginning of Dalereckoning when cultists of Myrkul fled the fall of Jhaamdath and made their way from Tulmon on the Lake of Steam into neighbouring Calimshan, finding favour with some rulers and persecution from others but always growing stronger by supporting those in opposition to the lords or the land.

With the fall of Shoonach and the rise of the Mameluk slave lords to rule Calimshan, the new warrior kings desired a place of their own to bury their dead. It is still used today for the rulers of Calimshan, and is known as Nykkar the Isle of Memory.

Calimport: The cellars and passages of Dark Calimport are home to numerous secret shrines to gods outlawed during the various ages of Calimshan.

Reaperscythe Hall: The only openly acknowledged temple in Calimport is an ancient and modest, squat temple of grey stone with a single minaret at one end decorated in gargoyles depicting the death devils that serve Myrkul. Reaperscythe Hall was established in 538 DR during the brief alliance of power between the Mameluks of Calimshan and the priests of Myrkul that aided in their conquest.

Nykkar, Isle of Memory: This island had long been the holdouts of outcasts and exiles from those who worked against the rulers of Calimshan before the Mameluk chose it to house their honoured dead in 540 DR at the urging of the followers of Myrkul that had fled here from Shoon persecutions.

The Seven Skulled Tower: Nykkar is home to the largest temple of Myrkul in Calimshan, the Seven Skulled Tower, where over 200 priests of Myrkul form a major part of the Necroppari, The Necroppari are a multi-faith group that attend to the funerary rites on Nykkar, any faith may have a temple and any number of faithful on the island of Nykkar (although the Church of the Bone Lord is the strongest faith there) and all work together as part of the Necroppari. There is no strife allowed among the Necroppari.

Shoonach: Qysar Shoon IV, the first necroqysar, was an avid supporter of the dark gods, using their faithful to support his necromantic endeavours and to spread fear (and therefore obedience) among the population. The temples of the Dark Three on Imperial Mount were linked in a large temple complex, situated atop a huge crystal within which three noble genies were imprisoned by the necroqysar and forced to devout themselves to creating magical artefacts to serve the Shoon Imperium. It is believed these three genies painstakingly etched the 5 volumes of the Nekorrak.

Cormyr: Due to the fell reputation of the Church of the Bone Lord; mostly based upon events from 1020 DR when liches of the Cult of Skulls rose up and attacked Harpers across the North, the worship of Myrkul is rare in the Heartlands. Despite that a few isolated shrines cane found.

Skull Crag: The town and the shrine it is named after lies on the western edge of the Stormhorns overlooking the High Road as it winds its way south to Proskur. The Skull Crag shrine is a white marble outcropping that has been polished and refined to resemble a humanoid skull. It is revered as a place of wisdom and revelation by Myrkulites, who travel here in the hopes of receiving visions from their god when they stand atop the skull (although many fall to their deaths below when they shut their eyes and a gust of wind takes them).

Sages think the Skull Crag was made by Myrkul to mark his passing out of the lands of Netheril, and his lingering presence allows the faithful of Myrkul to better understand the wishes of their deity.

Lake of Steam: The Lake of Steam region is the centre of power for the Church of the Bone Lore, for the headquarters is located in the city of Tulmon on the western shores.

Tulmon:

Skullspires: Located within on the edge of Tulmon. This soaring slender spire overlooks the city and the Crypt City located to the west. The Conclave of Doom sits here regularly to deal with all matters that affect the Church of the Bone Lord.

Shaar: The Shaar region has a long standing influence of Myrkul worship originating with the Cult of the Kalahb which spread throughout the Shaar by the Theocracy of Eltabranarr, and then later when the Shoon Imperium from Calimshan extended its rule into this region it brought with it the Cult of Bones. When the Church of the Bone Lord formed the Shaar was easily brought into line with the official worship of Myrkul.

Sheirlantar:

The Temple of Crypts: The city of Sheirlantar on the western coast of the Shaar is so heavily influence by the worship of Myrkul that the resident high priest of Myrkul has the honorary position of Keeper of the Crypts that allows him to rule Sheirlantar on behalf of the King of Lapaliiya. The current Keeper of Crypts is the Deathbringer Antara Bones.

Shining Plains:

Ormath

Tower of Skulls: A temple of Myrkul built as a ziggurat whose walls are made of stone that resembles a thousand staring human skulls.

Thay: The faithful of Myrkul have long had a strong presence in Thay since around the time of that country’s formation, when the newly emancipated Thayan rejected the Mulhorandi pantheon and its gods, and sent emissaries far and wide to the churches of Faerun to establish temples in Thay (in direct insult to the godkings of Mulhorand). The Church of the Bone Lord is the dominant religion in Thay along with that of Kossuth.

Many in Thay, especially among the ruling Red Wizards, are careful to maintain good relations with the Church of the Bone Lord, including the Zulkir of Necromancy Szass Tam, who has even worked with them to create an undead unit in the Thayan armed forces known as Myrkul’s Legion.

There are temples to the Bone Lord in every city in Thay, and shrines in every slave-farm. The Church of the Bone Lord also works in partnership with the Red Wizads and in particulr the Zulkir of Necromancy, to ensure there is a strong college of magic to recruit and train necromancers. 

Bezantur:

The Gilded Skull: Situated next to the docks in the city of Bezantur in Thay, this gilded wooden villa was used primarily to house undead that were rented out as dock hands to those that could stomach the unusual workforce.

The Great Skull: The primary temple of Myrkul in Bezantur is located more centrally within the city and is an onion domed (shaped like a skull) villa made of black marble veined with gold. Like many major temples dedicated to Myrkul, this temple also has a shrine to Jergal and a number of Jergal’s strange faithful within its catacombs.

Surthay: The Church of the Bone Lord is most powerful in Surthay which is the home of Szass Tam, the Zulkir of Necromancy, and the largest temple of Myrkul in Thay, as well as the headquarters of the College of Necromancy.

Old Skull Temple: This temple, fashioned from brilliant white marble in the shape of a huge skull with open mouth (people enter the temple through one of his bottom teeth). The temple is home to Dhimar, the highest ranking priest of Myrkul in Thay.

Heresies

The Bone Wing Heresy: The Bone Wing Heresy was established by Strongor Bonebag himself. Strongor was a powerful priest of Myrkul and a leader of the Ebondeath cell of the Cult of the Dragon.

Strongor blended the tenets of the Cult of Bones and the Cult of the Dragon into the foundation of the Bone Wing Heresy, teaching that everything will eventually die and be brought into Myrkul’s realm. Dracoliches are sacred servants of Myrkul and the agents of the end of everything, destroying the gods and rising up as a pantheon of undead dragons. The priests of Myrkul are but one piece of this great pantheon of dracoliches, the loyal servants that will one day be reborn as draconic angels of death.

The Bone Wing Heresy was strong in the Sword Coast North when Strongor was alive. After 930 DR the Bone Wing Heresy declined as it was confined to the Mere of Dead Men by the orcs of Uruth Ukrypt until 1026 DR when the orc kingdom fell. By this time the Harpers had decimated the ranks of Myrkulites across the North, and so there were few left that would embrace the heretical teachings of renegade Myrkulites.

Gradually the Cult of Bones expanded north and absorbed the remaining members of the Cult of Skulls, transforming into the Church of the Bone Lord, and so the Bone Wing Heresy began to infiltrate this new and growing pool of Myrkulites.

Chardansearavitriol’s transformation in 1202 DR saw an influx of heretical converts as everyone awaited the next appearance of the Eye of Myrkul constellation and the final transformation of Ebondeath on his path to ascension. The time of that ascension is at hand in 1356 DR and the Bone Wing Heresy has grown powerful once again, with over 100 heretics in the Mere of Dead Men, and another 50 members spread in the settlements around the mere.

Resources

The Church of the Bone Lord has access to a thousand years of acquired wealth and magic that has been donated to the faith of Myrkul in order to extend life or achieve some form of undeath. The Church of the Bone Lord also has a large number of undead creatures at its disposal and in general can consider any intelligent form of undead as an ally in most circumstances.

Magic Items

The Death Blade: This unique blade was created by the cooperation of the faithful of Bane, Bhaal, Myrkul, and Moander, and is enchanted by large runic symbols of the four gods that glow red and black and allows the blade to slay any being almost instantly and cause solid materials (including metals and stone) to decay when struck. The 11 ft long blade is currently lodged high up in one of the cliffs of the Sargauth River still attached to the enormous mailed fist and heavy iron bracer.

Death’s Edge: This unique scimitar was the favoured weapon of Strongor Bonebag. It resembles a curved blade of midnight black steel with a bone hilt carved into the shape of a dragon’s open maw. The sword was crafted for Strongor with the assistance of Chardansearavitriol, and enchanted to contain some of Strongor’s own personality. It was wielded by Strongor when he was slain by orcs and lost for several centuries before being recovered by priests of Myrkul (of the Bone Wing Heresy) and returned to Uthtower.

Death’s Edge is a magically sharpened blade that is increasingly effective against all living humanoids. The blade is intelligent (containing a shard of Strongor’s personality) and desires the death of all humanoids. Death’s Edge provides protection against Negative Energy and on a critical strike the blade deals negative energy damage. Wielders that do not slay a living humanoid every day find their life energy drained by the sword (the amount increasing every day without a slaying).

Death Ward: The Church of the Bone Lord is often called upon to deal with outbreaks of the undead in or around civilised areas (sometimes outbreaks that the Myrkulites have secretly caused). In the event that the undead cannot be controlled or attacks the faithful of Myrkul, every temple has at least one of these magical shields to help them combat the undead.

This shield provides greater protection to the faithful of Myrkul against the attacks of the undead, it also acts as an attractant to all undead, drawing them towards the bearer of the shield like a moth to a flame. In the hands of unbelievers the shield merely attracts undead and provides no additional protection. These objects are often created by the Ritual Consecrator of a temple and are decorated with a single white skull covering the shield face.

The Nekorrak: This immense tome covers a variety of topics of necromancy and is split over five volumes that include treatises on the creation and control of undead, necromantic spells and magical theory, necromantic wards and spell fields, and other esoteric topics.

The Nekorrak is made out of slates of malachite (which it is believed wards away evil spirits and augments necromantic magics), with each letter carved individually in over 6,000 pages across 5 volumes.

The Nekorrak was created by necromancers from the court of  Qysar Shoon VII at the necroqysars request. It was lost during the sacking of Shoonach by Strohm and his forces before resurfacing again **********. The Nekorrak is regarded as a holy relic for the Church of the Bone Lord because of the vast quantity of necromantic lore that lies within its pages.

Ring of Myrkul: These rings were popular centuries ago in the Savage North when individual cells of the Cult of Skulls desired secrecy to shroud their evil practices. The rings were used to identify fellow Myrkulites and augment their powers while they were on missions. With the destruction of the Cult of Skulls in 1020 DR this magic item ceased to be used as the new Church of the Bone Lord preferred to operate openly, but many of these items continue to be found throughout the Savage North, but in particular within the Sword Coast North around Waterdeep and Neverwinter (among the Bone Wing Heresy).

A Ring of Myrkul is usually a simple gold band (often painted black), with a white skull. When worn it makes all undead ignore the wearer unless the wearer attacks them. Some rings were also enspelled to hold spells (either charged or recharging use) such as chill touch, or ghoul touch depending upon the fancy of the creator. The Rings of Myrkul around the Mere of Dead Men have been tied to the ruins of Uthtower by some ritual devised by Chardansearavitriol and gain additional powers when within the Mere.

Orders

The Grey Ones: Those who successfully cast the spell known as the Hand of Myrkul reveal themselves as the most holy and honoured priests of Myrkul. They are swiftly inducted into a select group known as Grey Ones. These priests wander the realms, preaching the word of Myrkul and visiting far flung temples and shrines.

Where they encounter violence used against Myrkulites, the Grey Ones respond to defend the faith and allied necromancers. Where they find heresy or faithlessness within the ranks of the Church of the Bone Lord, they are swift to deliver the Hand of Myrkul to false priests.

Grey Ones, it is claimed, are infused with a small amount of Negative Energy, and this grants them a number of special abilities including the ability to successfully manifest the Hand of Myrkul. Grey Ones are better attuned to the undead, able to command and animate more of them than other priests of Myrkul. They are resistant to the effects of Negative Energy and so less affected by death effects. Lastly they are not affected negatively by any diseases or parasites that they acquire, exhibiting the physical effects of the spell but not suffering any internal weakness or death. This has led them to be seen as harbingers of death and so are greatly feared wherever they travel.

Spells

Bone Bite: The priest may create a set of razor sharp bone jaws and hurl those at nearby targets.

Corrupt: The priest may cause rot and decay to manifest in anything the priest touches (centred on the region touched). This includes rusting metal, putrefying food, contaminating water, rotting organic matter, and corroding stone. The region affected is only as large as the priests hand, but subsequent applications of the spell in the same place magnify the affected area by a factor of 10.

Dolorous Decay:

Hand of Myrkul: The most holy spell of Myrkul is the most holy spell of the Church of the Bone Lord, with very few priests able to master its casting (some say it is a gift from Myrkul himself), and those that do are known as Grey Ones and inducted into a special order.

The Hand of Myrkul wreathes the priest’s hands in black flames and the next thing he touches turns to dust. In rare instances the priest turns to dust instead or both the priest and the target turn to dust. It is said Myrkul shows his favour or disfavour based upon who is destroyed by the Hand of Myrkul.

Quench the Spirit:

Wither: This spell withers the flesh of the next being touched after casting this spell, focused upon the area touched by the priest. Knowledge of this spell is tightly controlled within the Church of the Bone Lord, and it is made available only to those that have achieved the rank of Withering Lord (and it is removed when they advance beyond that rank).

This spell is used against enemies or to mould undead when required but most often it is used in a ritual known as the Withering of Elders, which is performed whenever a new Elder Doom is chosen, to induct them into the Conclave of Doom. A group of 3 Withering Lords apply cast the Wither spell and apply their hands to the head of the prospective Elder Doom.

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