Kurtulmak is the patron deity of the kobolds, and they claim he gave them life. After Kurtulmak created the kobolds, he taught them the skills of mining, ambushing, trapmaking, thieving and pillaging. Also, according to other myths, he stole the gift of sorcery from a dragon deity to give to his people.
Kurtulmak also has a burning hatred for gnomes, which stem from his anger at the gnome deity Garl Glittergold. Myths say that Garl Glittergold once collapsed Kurtulmak's cavernous home as a joke. The event wounded Kurtulmak's pride on two fronts, as he considered himself both an expert trickster and a miner without equal. Since then Kurtulmak has hated Garl and all gnomes. Kurtulmak hates being bettered by any means, especially by some frivolous method such as an illusion or a practical joke. He carries grudges and has a huge chip on his small shoulder.
While Kurtulmak’s priests hold subordinate positions to tribal chieftains in kobold society, they are still quite politically powerful. The highest ranking priest is always one of the chief’s closest advisors, informing him of Gnomebane’s wishes on where to direct the tribe’s activities.
Priests of Kurtulmak spend most of their days planning mining operations, organize ambush and raiding parties, and see to a tribal defense (especially the construction of traps). They also function as intermediaries in tribal disputes, both internal and inter-tribal. When conflict breaks out between two tribes, the highest ranking priests will gather in a secluded, neutral location to discuss a truce. These truces are not binding, although they are usually followed. While priests of Steelscales are completely loyal to their tribe, they also work to unify kobolds against external threats. The only exception to this is when they discover a tribe that worships Kuraulyek, whom priests dictate should be exterminated for their blasphemy. Priests of other kobold deities, of whom Gaknulak and Dakarnok are the most widespread, are wholly subservient to Stingtail’s priests, fulfilling specific roles within the tribe.
The Claws of Kurtulmak also tend to be some of the premier artists amongst any individual gen, as they often have skills relating to the metals and gems they mine. Their craftsmanship far surpasses that of the other goblinoid races, but rarely matches that of demihumans or humans.
VestmentsPriests of Kurtulmak wear orange robes decorated by a large white skull symbol. When possible, silver and gemstone jewelry will be sewn into the collar, while polished bone beads will be used to fringe the sleeves. A black cord or belt will be wrapped around the waist, with a loop to hold a ritual pickaxe. An iron cap with a pair of backwards-curving stylized horns is also favored if the tribe has a blacksmith amongst them. Holy symbols are most commonly small carved skulls made of alabaster (gypsum or calcite) with a pair of small stones in the eye sockets. Other holy symbols used are brightly polished gnome skulls, pickaxes, or a naturally occurring yellow or orange gemstone (citrine, topaz, etc.) encased in a clear one (mostly quartz).
When not overseeing rituals, priests of Kurtulmak generally prefer to stay inconspicuous to outsides, and so wear whatever is common for the tribe, although they prefer black or green scale mail if possible. If they are commanding a battle group in combat, they prefer to be conspicuous, and so will wear orange-painted scale mail, their iron horned cap, and will decorate their weapons with trophies from previous victims, such as ears and bones. They prefer weapons that can be easily used in cramped tunnels, such as spears and short swords.
HierarchyNovices in the service of Kurtulmak are known as Burrowers, while full priests are known as Tunnellords. The chief priest in any specific tribe is known as the Master of Mines, and specialty priests are called Tunnelstalkers. Within the loose priestly hierarchy in any given tribe are two divisions amongst those who follow Steelscales. The first branch is known as the Stings of Kurtulmak (generally referred to as just "the Stings"), and they function as battle commanders and war leaders. The head of this branch is known as the Stingmaster. Younger priests lead small groups of kobolds in ambushes, skirmishes, etc., while older priests command larger groups from the rear, where they can reap the glory of success without risking their own lives. The second branch is known as the Claws of Kurtulmak (generally referred to as just "the Claws") and they plan and lead mining expeditions and direct cave expansion. The head of this branch is known as the Clawmaster. Within the tribe, neither branch is considered more prestigious than the other, and the Master of Mines is quick to quash any serious disputes between the branches.
TemplesKobolds create single temples dedicated to the whole pantheon, with a large central chamber for Kurtulmak and a low altar for his sacrifices. Shrines to the other gods of the pantheon branch out from the central complex, as do passageways to the priests' quarters. In smaller communities, such as individual war bands or clanholds, kobolds create small multipurpose temples or shrines that are used communally by all the priests, as no holy days overlap.
As with all kobold living spaces, the tunnels are usually dug out of solid rock and accessed through narrow, twisting passages guarded by traps. The construction techniques used in these underground temples are surprisingly good, showing the best mining work the kobolds have to offer. In the main altar chamber, decorations favored tend to be valuable and grisly. Gnomish or faerie skulls, with gems placed in the eye sockets, are the preferred trophies on display, although it is not uncommon to find broken weapons, shields, or other accoutrements on display. Orange, as the holy color of Kurtulmak, is common, taking the form of painted designs, walls, or cloth hangings. There will also be white painted skull sigils upon the walls.
RitualsThe enemies of kobolds are sacrificed to Kurtulmak monthly (under the crescent moon) in a gory ceremony. Prayers to Kurtulmak have a rhythmic quality to them that can easily be recited while swinging a pickaxe. Prayers can also take the form of battle cries and promises of revenge. "By the point of Kurtulmak's spear and the tip of his poisonous tail, I will see every member of your family perish."
Once per month, under the light of the crescent moon, the priests of Kurtulmak hold a ceremony in which they sacrifice captives or slaves to their patron deity. During the warmer months, these ceremonies are held outside, but this is a preference and not a requirement. The ceremonies will be held inside during the cold months and during inclement weather. The ceremony consists of much chanting and praise for Gnomebane, after which prisoners are led in to be sacrificed. The sacrifices are tied to the altar and slain with pickaxes. This ceremony is called Mining the Blood, and while the sacrifice is slain with pickaxes, the priests chant rhythmic mining prayers. The most sacred sacrifices are rock or forest gnomes, followed by brownies, pixies, and other faerie creatures.
OrdersThere are two well-known groups associated with the church of Kurtulmak. The first is an elite troop of boar-riding crusaders, fighter/clerics known as the Order of the Crushed Limb. They function independently of any clan, although they work closely with those they know, with the sole purpose of raiding, terrorizing, and destroying gnomish hamlets and faerie communities. During the Second Unhuman Wars, a branch of this order appeared in Greyspace, riding space swine captured or purchased from dohwar merchants. How widespread this new branch is has yet to be determined.
The second branch is known as the Shadowclaws, and they specialize in underground sneak attacks against gnomes and other enemies who make their homes under the earth. They have mastered the art of tunneling twice as fast and far more quietly than is typical, although the tunnels are extremely unstable. The members of this order know full well about every instability in the tunnels, and they frequently rig them to collapse in order to block or bury pursuit. The order is primarily composed of cleric/thieves and a smattering of crusaders. Each member has the mining proficiency, and many also have the engineering proficiency. While they go where ever they are likely to be able to make an underground sneak attack on enemies, they are still associated with a specific temple and figure into their hierarchy as a third branch alongside the Claws and Stings.
Take back the territory that rightfully belongs to kobolds from the hated gnomes and faerie creatures. Slay gnomes whenever possible for their insults upon Kurtulmak the Cunning. A quick wit and a good trap is a better weapon against a foe than any spear. Bravery and courage are overrated; a dirty win is still a win. Ambush and surprise your enemies, it gives the greatest chance of success. Revenge is the sweetest of victories. Always remember an insult, and always pay it back twice over. Kobolds are stronger together than they are apart. Dig and mine the earth, taking all it has to offer. Learn the ways of the earth, for that knowledge will help in struggles against enemies.
Kurtulmak appears as a 5-foot-tall kobold with steel scales. His tail has a poisoned stinger on its tip, and he also wields a spear. He exudes an aura of fear, causing foes to flee in panic.
Kurtulmak was the sworn enemy of Garl Glittergold and the other gnome gods. He was also a sworn enemy of the urd god Kuraulyek, and he was elevated to divinity by the dragon god Asgorath.