Yurtrus White-Hands is the hated and feared orc deity of death and disease. He is a whimsical dispenser of suffering and crippling plagues who is loathed even by the orcs, who revere him only in a desperate attempt to keep him happy, so he will not visit his pestilence upon them.
As the god of death and disease, Yurtrus White-Hands is an enigmatic and terrifying presence in the lives of orcs. He embodies the end result of every orc: death, decay, and burial, be it from battle or disease. All seek to propitiate the Lord of Maggots out of fear his debilitating touch will come down upon them; when it does, great sacrifices and entreaties are made to appease him and turn his wrath elsewhere. The Rotting One is a wholly mute god, and never communicates directly with any being.
Orc children are frightened into obedience by their elders by threatening stories of the Silent One, who impatiently awaits to drag them off to his cold halls. These stories do not exaggerate the truth; Yurtrus is the undisputed lord of the orcish dead, and his realm on the diseased-filled plains of oinos is filled by the rotting, wailing spirits of those he has claimed as his own.
The priesthood of White-Hands exists in every orcish tribe, but dominates none. They are both shunned and feared; disliked and avoided for what their deity represents, but too dangerous to banish. Their primary duty is to intercede with the Rotting One to ward off disease and untimely death, and also to request his help in sending such plagues against their enemies.
In addition to their primary duties, priests are solely responsible for the disposition of the dead, and oversee funeral rites for all members of the tribe. They also oversee burial lands and other sacred death sites such as barrows, tombs, and dedicated pyre locations. Because of their control over these aspects of orcish life, interference with another tribe's funerary procedures is a strong taboo observed by most orcs out of fear of retaliation from members of Yurtrus' clergy regardless of their tribal affiliation.
The priests also function as diviners, using extispicy (divination by means of inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals) as their preferred method of determining omens surrounding specific events.
The priests of Yurtrus are also responsible for overseeing the food stocks of the tribe, determining when meat is rotten or water too polluted to drink. Thus, some tribes began to worship Yurtrus as a god of food and health to be appeased.
Sacrifices are generally offered to the Rotting Lord by inoculating a particularly horrible disease in victims.
VestmentsAt all times, priests of Yurtrus wear soft leather gloves made from the skin of non-orcish humanoids, humans, and demihumans. These gloves are bleached white to mimic their god's hands. In addition, they wear leather clothing made of the same material (AC of 9). They carry special maces with heads carved in the shape of a clenched fist. The heads of the maces are always made of a hard white substance, such as marble or bone. These maces are used in battle, as well as functioning as the priesthood's holy symbol.
Even in battle or when travelling, followers of White-Hands wear their ceremonial garb at all times. They may use other weapons or armor if necessary, but it is considered a breach of protocol, and they only do so if absolutely necessary.
HierarchyYurtrus' clergy is comprised primarily of orcs. The Yurtran clergy is predominately male, but are open to females, but generally only those who survived a debilitating disease or plague choose to join the priesthood. Novices in the service of the Lord of Magots are called the Muted and full priests are known as Plaguehands, while specialty priests are called as Malablights. The hierarchy of Yurtrus' church varies from tribe to tribe, but is usually based on pure seniority. However, in many tribes, the highest positions are open only to priests who have been "touched by White-Hands," a term the priesthood uses to describe those afflicted at some point in their life by a disease with lasting physical effects (scarring, discoloration, rotting, etc.). Shamans and witch doctors are not part of the clerical hierarchy, although they are considered brothers of the faith. Shamans are found in about three times as many Yurtrus-dominated tribes as witch doctors.
TemplesAs with the clergy themselves, shrines consecrated to White-Hands are found in virtually every orcish tribe. They are typically the location where death rites are held and the bodies disposed of (funeral pyres, interment, etc.). The priesthood rarely builds temples, but they frequently take over crypts and tombs and reconsecrate them to the Lord of Maggots. In addition, in communities that build tombs, barrows, or similar chambered burial sites for honored dead, the upkeep, protection, and maintenance is the purview of the clergy of Yurtrus. Temples and shrines are always built in close proximity to the tombs, either connected or unconnected, whichever is most appropriate. Undead guardians are frequently found in all such tombs and temples, created and controlled by the clergy of the Rotting Lord. Members of the priesthood are also dedicated defenders of tribal land, as they consider it part of their duties to the tribes' dead, and make effective use of their maces and spells in battle.
RitualsThe priests and followers of Yurtrus pray at dusk for their spells. Yurtrus's holy days are on the new moon, and he is worshipped in underground crypts. Appropriate sacrifices are made to him monthly. His sacred "animal" is the skeleton.
Once a month, on the night of the full moon, the Yurtran clergy gathers in a sanctified crypt to perform a ceremony called the Propitiation. This ceremony is intended to re-affirm their faith and humility before White-Hands, and ward off the diseases and plagues he inflicts. Typically, sacrifices will consist of two herd animals, such as cows, goats, or sheep, or a single humanoid captive. The blood is drained from the sacrifices and the bodies burned on a ritual pyre. While the bodies are burning, the priests gather around and sprinkle the blood into the fire, all the while reciting pleading chants asking Yurtrus to spare the tribe his touch. Crypts used for these ceremonies are usually the burial places of great orcish chiefs, although captured dwarven, human, or elven crypts may be used once they have been consecrated to Yurtrus.
When plague or disease afflicts the tribe in significant numbers, the priests will perform an emergency ceremony called the Appeasing. The details of the ceremony are very similar to the Propitiation, but there is an added layer of extispicy divination before the sacrifices are burned. If ill omens are seen in the entrails, a new sacrifice of a herd animal or a captive is made and extispicy is performed again. This cycle continues until good omens indicating the sacrifice is accepted are found.
Holy DaysThe Church recognizes two major holy days. The first is the Ceremony of Contagion, which is celebrated on Midsummer's Eve. It is said on that day the god spread a contagion that sapped the world of life and drew it inevitably toward winter and the end of the year. After a series of bloody sacrifices to protect the orcs from the ravages of disease, the priests of Yurtrus went forth to spread disease and death worldwide, especially among other races.
The second holy day, known as Putrescent Death, is celebrated on the eve of Midwinter. During that night, the clergy of Yurtrus celebrate the death of the world, symbolized by the sacrifice of intelligent creatures from other races.
An entire monk order called the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge are dedicated to him. Unlike other monks, these monks can learn clerical abilities without destroying their potential as monks. They bleach their hands and infect their own long-grown nails with red ache through a special powder made from blood to spread the disease among their enemies.
Followers of Yurtrus believed death was inevitable for all living beings. The ravages of an epidemic were simply death taking victims who had not fallen in battle, so orcs should choose their end where it was most likely. However, disease would ultimately attack all living creatures. Orcs could only avoid the touch of White Hands by begging for mercy, and they should fear him, for death was always lurking in the shadows of Luthic's cave, and it will certainly strike again.
Yurtrus appears a huge, vaguely orc-shaped creature whose utterly disgusting features inspire revulsion in all who behold him. His skin is green and rotting, slowly decaying and peeling away from the disgusting, dripping, and maggot-ridden flesh below. The sole exception to this decay are his two chalk-white hands. The Silent One does not possess a mouth, nor is he able to speak (when an orc says "when White Hands speaks", he means "never"). He does not wear armor, nor does he wield a weapon. He instead depends on the devastating diseases bestowed by his disgusting touch.
Yurtrus manifests almost exclusively in the form of plagues and virulent diseases. He shows his favor on his priesthood and followers by giving them immunity to these visitations (although they still may be carriers); if he is not pleased, they will be as susceptible as the remainder of the population. Much more rarely, he shows his favor upon individuals by surrounding them with a sickly greenish-brown aura; this often gives temporary immunity to energy draining effects or grants the recipient the ability to cause a lesser version of his disease attack.
Like Shargaas, the Rotting One's relationships with the rest of the Orcish Pantheon is rather distant due to lack of interaction and planar distance. The only member of his pantheon he feels more than a cool indifference is Shargaas, with whom he has a long-standing dispute over the portfolio of undeath. Yurtrus long ago lost this to the Night Lord, and the Silent One has never forgotten this.
Yurtrus' relationships with the other powers are similar to those of the other deities in his pantheon. Not surprisingly, the elvish and dwarvish pantheons hold him in the same low esteem as they hold the rest of the Orc Pantheon, as do the goblin and hobgoblin deities. Other powers of death, such as Urogalan and Dumathoin hold him in indifference. Indeed, of all the orcish powers, Yurtrus is probably has the least hate directed towards him by outsiders, although such hate is still considerable, as he brings death to more orcs than they or their followers ever possibly could.