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Myrkul

(pronounced MER-kul)
Lord of the Dead, Lord of Bones, Old Lord Skull, the Reaper, The Deathless, Crown Prince of Murghôm
Pantheon
Faerûn
Quick Descriptions:
Myrkul looks like a human on the verge of death. He has an emaciated, skeletal form, shrouded in flowing black robes. He has wrinkled, lesioned skin and blackened, cracked lips. His voice is an emotionless high whisper, never showing feeling or concern.
The graveyard features a small stone mausoleum, marked with the symbol of a skull on a black triangle. Upon entry, a steep stone staircase leads downward into a dark maze of catacombs. Deep in the bowels of the catacombs is a darkened shrine with a stone throne in the center. Sitting on the throne is the preserved corpse.
Myrkul's priest is wearing a long black hooded robe, bound about the waist with a bone-white sash. He has on a skull mask, covering his forehead and upper cheeks, but leaving his chin and mouth bare. All his exposed flesh is darkened with ash. The priest is barefoot.
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Myrkul, one of the Dark Gods, is a god of the Dead, as opposed to the god of death, which is the province of Bhaal. Myrkul has a cold, malignant intelligence, and speaks in a high whisper. He is always alert, never sleeps, and is never surprised. He is never known to loose his temper or be anything other than coldly amused when a mortal succeeded in avoiding his directives or chosen fate. His influence in Faerûn is imposed through fear, and he is a master of making mortals terrified of him through words and deeds. At times, just to remain unpredictable, he can seem almost kind and caring. His cowled skull head is known in nightmares all over Faerûn, and he is the one deity that almost all human mortals can picture clearly. Myrkul takes care that all mortals think of him often - he is even known to materialize beside open graves, scythe in hand, just to gaze around at gathering mourners for a few silent breaths before fading away, in order to remind everyone that he is waiting for them all.

Myrkul's influence on the Realms is manifested through a variety of servitor creatures. He sends "Deaths" (skeletons, zombies, and a wide range of undead horrors) to work his will. At more than one occasion, Myrkul has unleashed armies of night riders against the still-living. Myrkul also sends bats, black panthers or leopards, hell hounds, nightmares, deepest red roses (that turn black and crumble when touched), jet, obsidian, onyx, ravens, and crows to show his favor or disfavor and to aid the faithful and harass his enemies.

Myrkul was originally a mortal man, a necromancer named Myrkul Bey al-Kursi, who ascended to godhood alongside Bhaal, the god of murder, and Bane, god of fear, hatred and tyranny. For a time Myrkul's portfolio, and his home, the Bone Castle, were both usurped by the mortal Cyric and later passed on to the ascended Kelemvor. However, that which is dead can never truly die, Myrkul was worshiped as a god of the dead once more in the 15th century DR.

Worshipers, Clergy & Temples

The faith of Myrkul has never been popular, nor are his priests numerous. Many venerated Myrkul out of fear, and offerings are made in his name at funerals and other solemn occasions, but few actually worship him as their primary faith.

Myrkulite priests, known as Gray ones, tend to be morose, taciturn, and obsessed with the dead and the undead. Like many followers of Kelemvor and Jergal, priests of Myrkul serve as undertakers and typically keep their patron's identity secret.

The clergy of Myrkul is charged with making folk fear and respect death and the power of the almighty Myrkul so that no one stands against the church or tries to thwart its activities. Gray ones are expected to spread the word that touching a priest of Myrkul brings death. They are expected to tell folk that those in the service of Myrkul have perfect patience and can be trusted utterly - and then conduct themselves accordingly. Myrkulite clergy preach stories of past and future "Doombringers" - mortals who roam the land, avenging dead friends, masters, and blood kin to whom they had sworn oaths. Doombringers are said to slay those who scoff or held other gods above the Lord of Bones.

Myrkulyte clergy members roam the Realms burying the dead and conducting funerals for fees. Their resistance to diseases make them popular hirelings for the disposal of plague victims and dealings with infected lycanthropes and the diseased. They do all they can to make the dying comfortable, but view death as natural, inevitable, and not something to run from. They place great value on the influence dead folk can have (referring to it as "the sacred hand that reaches from the grave") and assist dying folk to draft decrees, wills, and cryptic verses that guide the living to search for their hidden treasure or otherwise dance to their bidding after they are dead.

In return for a "skull fee," a priest of Myrkul will even agree to act as an agent or avenger for the dead, administering the wishes of the departed or carrying out tasks they were unable to complete before death. (Myrkulyte clergy members never accept skull fees from a living person who recounted the wishes of a dead being, but only from deceased people themselves in arrangements made before—sometimes years before—death.)

While Myrkul rarely allows his clergy to resurrect the dead, bringing a person to the temple of another faith for attempted resurrection and paying for this undertaking with money left by the dead was a procedure both commonplace and perfectly acceptable to Myrkulyte clergy members.

Vestments

All priests of Myrkul wear black robes with hooded cloaks, bound about the waist with a single sash of bone-white hue. Within temples they go barefoot and sometimes also bare their faces, but in public they are always masked, wearing half-masks (extending from the forehead to the upper cheeks) painted to resemble skulls. All exposed flesh is darkened with ash.

When adventuring, priests of Myrkul wear the best armor available. They always wear a dark hooded cloak along with their skull half-masks, and even while in the field, they continue to darken all their exposed flesh with ash. Adventuring Myrkulite priests feel no need to hide their allegiance as death would come to all eventually (sooner, it is rumored, for those foolish enough to molest a Myrkulyte).

Hierarchy

Myrkulites all address each other as "Death" or "Most Holy Death", adding the honorific before a known name or title. Novice Myrkulites are referred to as Daring Ones, until they become full priests with the title of Night Bringers. Specialty priests of Myrkul are known as Gray Ones.

Temples

Shrines to Myrkul or engravings of his holy symbol appear in many places where humans bury their dead, but full-fledged temples are rare. The few that exist are hallowed places where the dead from hundreds of miles around are brought for internment, even if they were not of Myrkul's faith. There is little space set aside for the living in such a location, usually a single modest shrine, but its catacombs and ossuaries are vast. In the deepest chamber of each temple rests a throne, and upon that throne sits the doomwarden — the preserved corpse of the most revered saint in the history of the temple (often its founder). Initiates to the faith are brought to kneel before a temple's doomwarden, where they must spend a night and a day fasting and meditating in complete darkness.

Rituals & Holidays

Myrkul is worshiped on a daily basis at dusk, and every devout follower also proffers a personal prayer at any time during the hours of darkness.

The Dusking is a ritual involving bones, the ashes of cremated humans, and grave dust, and is a remembrance of how mortal all living beings are and how close death walks behind each creature. It is centered upon a floating, glowing (thanks to magic) skull that hovers above a black, bone-decorated block or table altar. Offerings are accepted at this time from folk who are not devout but who wish to appease the Lord of Bones. They typically kneel at the altar when presenting their offerings. Tolling bells (deep and echoing, never tinkling or high and metallic) mark the opening and ending of this ritual and are struck once whenever an offering was made.

There is only one calendar-related ritual observed by the Church of Myrkul. The Feast of the Moon is known to the faithful of Myrkul as the Day the Dead are Most With Us. Myrkulytes believe that on that day the essences of all dead folk rise and drift as unseen ghosts across Faerun and seek their living descendants to deliver messages/warnings (by silently writing in dust, sand, or ashes, or by moving objects about, not by speech), or just to observe. To those who worship the Lord of Bones, this is a day to celebrate the dead in chant, prayer, and hymns, culminating in the midnight ritual of the Flagons of the Fallen, wherein glasses of wine are set alight by spells so the spirits who drink of them can be warmed for brief moments in their "eternal chill."

The only other major rituals practiced by Myrkulytes involve funeral related observances and the ceremonies some use to accompany their raising (or forcing down) undead. Since these activities are often done for hire, they are frequently dressed up with sinister, impressive rituals to make folk regard the work of the priests more highly.

Orders

The Knights of the Undying Dragon are an ancient order of undead crusaders who serve as the sword-arm of Myrkul. The Order includes 12 death knight commanders, each of whom commands a company of 12 skeletal warriors, who in turn each command a platoon of 12 night riders. The death knights all ride nightmares; the sub-commanders and troops ride gaunts. It is not known how the group maintains its size, even after a rare defeat, but their troop strength never changes. The knighthood is based in the dungeons of the long-vanished Castle of Al'hanar located in the Eastern Shaar, south of the Sharawood, east of the Great Rift, and south of Azulduth, the Lake of Salt. It is believed that the order was established before the rise of Unther and Mulhorand by the long-vanished kingdom of Eltabranar to guard against invaders from Zakhara. Unwilling to abandon their posts, even in death, the Knights of the Eternal Dragon (as they were known while still living) were granted immortality through undeath by the Lord of Bones in exchange for their eternal servitude. It is has been several centuries since the last campaign of the Undying Dragons, and the order has been long since forgotten.

Companies of undead knights emerge once each century to destroy a dracolich known only as the Everlasting Wyrm and several of its living spawn who inhabit the Sharawood (also known as the Drakewood). The Everlasting Wyrm always reforms after its destruction and begins rebuilding its horde. It is believed that Al'hanar Castle contains the wealth of at least 10 such hordes in its bowels and magic not seen since the Imaskari Empire.

There has also been word of a cult of Bone Fist Monks who worship the god of the dead. They reportedly train their fists to produce extremely tough and durable bone, which they use in defense of their land and the Lord of Bones.

Dogma

Make certain that all fear and respect the Lord of Bones--who cannot be evaded, hidden from, or shut out. For the dead are his subjects and the slide into death his pleasure and his domain. Preform your duty as a doombringer, those moved by Myrkul to bring death, delivering souls to the one who shall have them all in the end. The mighty, the low-born, those cloaked in proud art and those barely able to speak. You fear nothing, for to harm you is to die.

"Know me and fear me. My embrace is for all and is patient but sure. The dead can always find you. My hand is everywhere - there is no door I cannot pass, nor guardian who can withstand me." -Myrkul

Appearance, Manifestations

As a mortal, Myrkul Bey al-Kursi was described as a reticent and withdrawn individual. He had a thin frame and gangly limbs, usually hidden behind dark robes. He spoke in a high-pitched, soft voice.

The avatar of Myrkul appears as a emaciated, skeletal man hidden in flowing black robes. His wrinkled, lesioned skin and blackened, cracked lips gives the appearance that he is on the verge of death. He speaks in a rather high whisper and his words never show enough inflection to convey feeling or concern.

Relationships & History

From his mortal life and well into godhood, Myrkul maintained a complicated kinship, if not outright friendship, with Bane and Bhaal. He counted Shar as an ally and Chauntea, Lathander and Mielikki among his foes, though the latter was likely a much longer list.

Despite his death at the hands of Cyric, whom his faithful referred to as Cyruk, the transition of Myrkulyte mausoleums to Cyricist temples was a smooth and painless transition.

History

As a mortal, Myrkul's full name and title is said to have been Myrkul Bey al-Kursi, Crown Prince of Murghôm. "Monument of the Ancients." Myrkul was a powerful adventuring necromancer in his mortal years, traveling with Bane and Bhaal, (each dedicated to a quest to attain divinity for themselves). They traveled to the citadel of Jergal who, luckily for them was tiring of his existence as Lord of the End of Everything. The three argued over who would rule over the other two, trying to determine which of Jergal's portfolios they would receive. Malar tried and failed to interrupt the discussion. The end result was Myrkul gaining the portfolio of the Dead. Jergal served Myrkul as an aide for a time until Myrkul had settled into his new role.

Many years later, Myrkul again allied himself with Bane and the two dark gods conspired to steal the Tablets of Fate from the overgod Ao, in hopes that the loss of these tablets would weaken the overgod enough that he could be overthrown. The overgod responded to the theft by casting all the gods from the planes and into Toril, stripping their divine powers in the process. Only Helm was allowed to keep his divine abilities, and the God of Guardians stood watch over the Celestial Stairways, where he barred all deities from entering the planes, and waited for the tablets to be recovered and delivered to him and Ao.

Following the destruction of both Bane and Bhaal, Myrkul attacked Midnight, Kelemvor and Elminster atop Blackstaff Tower in Waterdeep, hoping his minions would provide enough distraction while he would forcefully seize the Tablets of Fate. But the mortal mage Midnight, infused with the power of the dead Mystra, would slay the Lord of Bones before he could make good his escape.

Some of Myrkul's essence was siphoned into an artifact contained in the Tower called the Crown of Horns, which he quickly teleported away. The artifact was once in the possession of Nhyris D'Hothek, a yuan-ti from Skullport, but has since abandoned its user, and to this day the spirit of Myrkul endures in the form of this powerful, sentient, artifact. His undead host in Waterdeep would in the end be defeated through the combined effort of the city watch and Khelben Arunsun.

His portfolio, and his home, the Bone Castle, were both usurped by Cyric after the Lord of Bones was destroyed atop Blackstaff Tower in Waterdeep during the Time of Troubles by Midnight. Later Myrkul's portfolio passed to Kelemvor when Cyric was driven from the City of Strife by an alliance of deities and denizens.

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Symbol: White human skull on a black field
God Alignment: NE
Worshipers Alignment
LG NG CG
LN N CN
LE NE CE
Domain:
Death
Portfolio:
Death, decay, old age, exhaustion, dusk, autumn
Worshipers:
Evil mages and cultists, necromancers, undertakers, and powerful undead
Plane: Gray Wastes
Alternative: Astral Plane