Bhaal, the Lord of Murder, also known as Niynjushigampo among his Gugari worshipers, is the Faerûnian god of violence and ritualistic killing.
The clergy of the Lord of Murder is a disorganized group of evil priests and assassins. Priests of Bhaal are referred to as either Bhaalists, which is most common to the west of the Dragon Reach, or Bhaalyn, which is used to the east. Together they are a disorderly network of local hierarchies, with the urban and rural branches maintaining distant relations from one another. Collectively, they believe that murder is both a duty to their god and a game for their enjoyment. Each cleric of Bhaal is expected to perform at least one murder every tenday, in the darkest moment in the dead of night.
Bhaalists' main activities consist of preparing for and carrying out assassinations, hunting bounties, and straight up bloody murder. Such preparations include sourcing and maintaining weapons and other gear, training, journeying, and praying. Bhaalists generally put a lot of time into researching who to murder, as well as the location and time to commit it. High priority targets often include rivals, as well as victims who would be missed by the common folk; this helped to rake in donations and other types of offerings.
Bhaal did not just urge his clergy to carry out killings, but also to seek the wealth that came along with it.
TemplesUrban members of the Church of Bhaal congregate in underground temples. Such temples are decorated in the theme of murder and death, from sculptures of vicious murders, to mosaics. Many of these sites have rooms filled with multiple corpses (as well as tokens from the deceased), if the bodies could not be left at the site of the killing. Every place of worship dedicated to Bhaal has a secret room or compartment that houses a steel sarcophagus with skull head, large enough to fit a tall human. This secret room is known as Bhaal's Rest, in homage to Bhaal's ascension.
Rural members instead prefer to worship the Lord of Murder at ancient shrines and oblational altars. Such shrines are usually built atop infrequently-visited tops of hills, and are shaped in the symbol of Bhaal.
The most well-known base is the Tower of Swift Death in Thay. Others exist around the continent, such as the Temple of Bhaal in the Undercity of Baldur's Gate, the Stronghold in Delimbiyr Vale (which formerly acted as a Bhaalist monastery), and the Temple of Bhaal in the Forest of Wyrms.
HeirarchyHigh Primate/Primistress: The leader of a specific faction (or an area) of the Church of Bhaal.
Primate/Primistress: A Primate or Primistress is in charge of a specific fortress or temple, which are filled with assassins and agents.
First Murder: First Murders are assistants to Primates and Primistresses, and helped with sending agents to nearby settlements. In other faiths, such a role was known as a scion.
Cowled Death: Cowled Deaths, who occupy offices in the community, make up the senior clergy of the Church of Bhaal. Nine Cowled Deaths report to each First Murder.
Deathdealer: Deathdealers form the more common members of the Church of Bhaal, and are underneath the Cowled Deaths. They bear the title of Slaying Hand.
VestmentsAll Bhaalists, during ceremonies and other temple work, wear a combination of purple or black cowls and robes. Such garments are often streaked with dark blood stains. Senor priests are known to add additions to their outfits, such as a red sash or bone adornments (usually from their victims). Ceremonial daggers are utilized by all members of the church, though only the highest members of the clergy (as well as Brethren of the Keen Strike) directly use them in their murderous acts.
Adventuring Gear: When on a mission or quest, a member of the Church of Bhaal usually wears full armor of high quality, in addition to black leggings and capes.
RitualsAside from holy killings, Bhaalists observe several rituals. Many are done privately, such as when a priest is planned to ascend to a high rank. In this instance, the member of the church would head out and perform a killing with only their bare hands. After completion, they would secretly inform a higher member of the church. The senior member would then organize a public ceremony, where all members would don their ceremonial outfits, and an honorary killing to Bhaal was made.
Bhaal's Rest: Bhaal's Rest is a ritual obeyed every month whereby the Bhaalyn with the greatest kill count or most prestigious kill is rewarded by filling the temple's sarcophagus with the blood of sentient beings and the winner then lays down in the sarcophagus and is shut in for the night (a practice Bhaal was said to enjoy on occasion).
Day's Farewell: This is a personal ceremony observed by all Bhaalyn at the end of the day or before setting out to commit murder. The Bhaalyn give thanks to Bhaal while washing their hands in blood (any blood will do). In a cult safehouse the Bhaalyn often meet for evenfeast and perform the Day’s Farewell as a large group.
Feast of the Moon: This ritual is the only one of its type that occurs on a specific date. During the ritual feast, priests of Bhaal praise and discuss particularly unique or interesting kills, as well as remember those who have died in service to the Lord of Murder. One of the most retold story is that of Uthaedeol's legendary murder of King Samyte of Tethyr.
The Blood Telling: This ceremony occurs on the Feast of the Moon, where all members of the cult meet and tell stories of their greatest kills.
OrdersThe Church of Bhaal supports many organizations that perform duties on behalf of the Lord of Murder.
Brethren of the Keen Strike - The Brethren of the Keen Strike is a society of which all specialty priests of Bhaal are included in.
Shadow Thieves of Amn - The Shadow Thieves is a deadly group of rogues, money-lenders, and assassins based in Crimmor, Amn.
Citadel of Assassins - The Assassins Guild of the Galenas is an organization of highly-trained killers that is led by the Grandfather of Assassins.
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Murder is not just a duty, but as pleasure. Let your killings be especially elegant, or grisly, or seem easy so that those observing them are awed or terrified. Make all folk fear Bhaal. Tell folk that gold proffered to the church can make the Lord of Murder overlook them for today.
Every single murder you commit strengthens our master. You are required to kill once every tenday, during the darkest time of the night. If this is not possible for any reason, such as imprisonment or other constraining circumstances, you will make up for your killings twice over.
Bhaal in known for appearing in three avatar forms: the Slayer, the Ravager, and Kazgoroth. The Slayer resembles a male, humanoid corpse with a feral face and ivory skin inset with deep lacerations that flow with black ichor; he prefers to assume this form when in urban areas. The Ravager is a 30-foot tall monster with a twisted, grimacing face that features a flowing beard and mane, horns that are 7 feet long, and eyes full of the flames of Gehenna; he assumes this form when visiting the rural regions of Toril. The Kazgoroth form is simply a shape-shifting monstrosity.
Another depiction of Bhaal is that of a cloaked figure wearing a steel harlequin mask. He carries twin curved daggers but is otherwise dressed and cloaked in fine, dark clothing. He stalks opponents relentlessly, increasing their fear and terror until the final blow falls. This depiction is most like the Bhaal of history known in Netheril and Jhaamdath.
In some extreme cases, Bhaal's mortal children (referred to as Bhaalspawn) can actually turn into creatures similar to Bhaal's avatars [mentioned above]. However, these incarnations are even more monstrous and inhuman in shape, acting as little more than powerful killing machines. While powerful, they are weaker than a true god's avatars.
A wholly evil, debased and sadistic god, Bhaal was served by the goddesses Talona and Loviatar, who in turn served Bane and to a lesser extent, Myrkul.
MortalUnknown to many, Tharlagaunt Bale was an accomplished Arcanist of Netheril, famed for his prowess in mage duels. He was such a skilled duellist that he was often hired by other Arcanists and Archwizards to eliminate their rivals, but despite his magical ability dwarfing more than a few Archwizards, he chose never to raise (or steal) an enclave. He traveled much of Toril as a power-hungry adventurer and assassin.
Along with his companions Bane and Myrkul Bey al-Kursi, they traveled the realms seeking power. Together they roamed the lands around Netheril, defeating Borem of the Boiling Mud in -359 DR, Maram of the Great Spear in -357 DR, Tyranthraxus in -356 DR, Camnod the Unseen in -353 DR, and Haask Voice of Hargut in -350 DR. During their quest, they are thought to have allied with and betrayed other companions, such as Malar (lesser deity of hunting, stalking, bloodlust) and Talona (goddess of poison and disease). Eventually, they killed one of the Seven Lost Gods whose power they divided amongst themselves. Then they went at last to the Castle of Bone in the Gray Wastes of Hades, where the God of the Dead Jergal dwelt, intent on taking his power by force. Upon their arrival, Jergal willingly offered his realm to the Dark Three, though they couldn't decide amongst themselves who would rule.
The three then fought over his power until Jergal suggested they divide it up and decide who got what with a game of skill. Bane won and, having first choice, took the portfolio of fear, hatred, strife and tyranny. Myrkul was second, and chose the portfolio of the dead. Bhaal came out the loser of their game, and was left the realm of murder as his own, but Bhaal found it suited him well, and thought it the best of the three.
GodhoodBhaal's reign of terror in the Moonshae Isles in the Year of the Bloodbird, 1346 DR, was a prime example of his cruelty and malice. Bhaal's shapeshifting avatar Kazgaroth, which emerged from a Darkwell, attempted to combine the firbolgs and Northmen into a conquering army set on destroying all the realms of the Ffolk. It even used its powers to corrupt some of the Northmen, turning them into blood warriors who were bloodthirsty and extremely loyal to Kazgaroth. After Kazgaroth was slain by Tristan Kendrick and his allies, Bhaal sought to personally ravage and corrupt the Moonshae Isles. Through his cleric Hobarth, he corrupted the Moonwell turning it into a Darkwell, formed an alliance with the Thayan wizard Cyndre in the court of High King Reginald Carrathal and raised an army of sahuagin and the undead through the sahuagin priestess Ysalla. The Darkwell turned into a cancerous wound on the earth that corrupted and killed anyone who came near it. Bhaal used the Darkwell to summon forth 'The Children of Bhaal,' which included Thorax the owlbear, a flock of perytons, and a displacer beast known as Shantu, which would lead them. All this was done to destroy the Earthmother and seize the Moonshae Isles as his personal domain. As the God of Murder sucked out the warm life of the Moonshaes through the Darkwell, the Earthmother's strength continued to fade until her spirit was completely extinguished, ending her reign on the isles. Bhaal's army of undead, sahuagin, firbolgs, ogre mercenaries, and the Children of Bhaal led by proxies such as Hobarth and Ysalla wreaked havoc across the isles by killing numerous people and razing settlements. Eventually, the Ffolk united under a newly crowned King of the isles, Tristan Kendrick, and rose up to defeat Bhaal's army. But by this time, the Darkwell was corrupted enough to open a portal to Bhaal's own realm and he sent forth his avatar, the Ravager, fueled by much of his divine power. In the end, the Ravager was slain by Tristan, High King of the Ffolk, using the Sword of Cymrych Hugh. Defeated and greatly weakened, Bhaal was banished from the Moonshae Isles and even temporarily exiled from Toril.
Time of TroublesOn Eleint 16, in the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, most gods, including Bhaal, were forced to walk upon the face of Faerûn as mortals, and lost all their godly powers. During this period, Bhaal was slain by the then-mortal Cyric with the 'sword' Godsbane atop Boareskyr Bridge. Bhaal, having foreseen his own death, had impregnated countless mortal women, whose children carried a piece of his divine essence within them. These children are referred to as the children of Bhaal, or Bhaalspawn, and were created to ensure Bhaal's resurrection. To this end, Bhaal sought to have all his children slain after his demise so his essence could be freed and gather at the Mana Forge. Once all the pieces of his divine essence had been collected, he left it to his most trusted deathstalker, Amelyssan, to perform the correct rites to bring about his resurrection and help him regain his power.
After the death of the Lord of Murder, many city-dwelling Bhaalists quickly converted to the worship of Cyric, whom they referred to as Cyric-Bhaal. The rural priests maintained their faith for years to come, claiming they continued to receive their divine powers following their nightly prayers. The schism between Bhaal's remaining followers and the emerging Cyric-Bhaalists reached its apex in the Year of the Shield, 1367 DR, getting to the point where the factions would ambush and assault one another. A short time later, the remaining worshipers of Bhaal stopped receiving their divine powers and began gradually converting to Cyricism or Xvimism.
ReemergenceFor a time, it was believed that any possibility for Bhaal's resurrection had been stopped. The last known Bhaalspawn, Abdel Adrian, resisted the murderous impulses caused by his lineage and became a famed and beloved figure in the city of Baldur's Gate. In the Year of the Narthex Murders, 1482 DR, near the beginning of the era known as the Second Sundering, Viekang, another Bhaalspawn who was thought to be dead, attacked Adrian as he spoke to a crowd in the portion of town known as The Wide. While the ultimate winner of the duel is unknown, the victor transformed into a massive, blood-soaked creature and began a rampage that was only stopped when a group of adventurers new to Baldur's Gate defeated and killed the monstrosity.
With all of his children dead, all of Bhaal's essence was freed, allowing for his resurrection. Bhaal was revived, and reclaimed the murder domain from Cyric. However, the Lord of Murder was no longer a true deity, and was instead a being of quasi-divine status. As with Bane and Myrkul, he was effectively a mortal. In 1492 DR, the city of Baldur's Gate saw a spate of murders by cultists of the Dead Three.
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