Lord of Bones, Old Lord Skull, the Reaper, Lord of the Dead
Symbol: Skull Over a Black Banner
Home Plane: The Bone Castle
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Portfolio: Autumn, Corruption, The dead, Decay, Dusk, Exhaustion, Old age, Parasites, Wasting
Domains: Death, Evil, Fate, Law, Pestilence, Travel, War
Worshipers: Evil Mages and Cultists, Necromancers, and Powerful Undead
Cleric Alignments: LE, NE, CE
Favored Weapon: Scythe
The clergy of Myrkul were charged to make folk fear and respect death and the power of almighty Myrkul so that no one stood against the church or tied to thwart its activities. Myrkul’s priests were expected to spread the word that touching a priest of Myrkul brings death. They were expected to tell all folk that those in the service of Myrkul had perfect patience and could be trusted utterly-and then conduct themselves accordingly. Myrkulyte clergy were to teach the stories of past and future “doombringers”— mortals who roamed the land avenging dead friends, masters, and blood kin to whom they had sworn oaths, and slaying those who scoffed or who held other gods supreme over the Lord of Bones.
Initiates to the faith first heard the word of Myrkul through a speak with dead spell cast upon a temple’s most revered deceased former high priest. Such spells allowed all within hearing range to comprehend the corpse’s words. Myrkul spoke through such vessels to say: “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.”
History of the Dead Three
In ages past there was but one god of strife, death, and the dead, and he was known as Jergal, Lord of the End of Everything. Jergal fomented and fed on the discord among mortals and powers alike. When beings slew each other in their quest for power or in their hatred, he welcomed them into his shadowy kingdom of eternal gloom. As all things died, everything came to him eventually, and over time he built his power into a kingdom unchallenged by any other god. Eventually, however, he grew tired of his duties for he knew them too well.
Without challenge there is nothing, and in nothingness there is only gloom. In such a state, the difference between absolute power and absolute powerlessness is undetectable. During this dark era, there arose three powerful mortals - Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul - who lusted after the power Jergal wielded. The trio forged an unholy pact, agreeing that they would dare to seek such ultimate power or die in the attempt. Over the length and breadth of the Realms they strode, seeking powerful magic and spells and defying death at every turn. No matter what monster they confronted or what spells they braved, the three mortals emerged unscathed at every turn. Eventually the trio destroyed one of the Seven Lost Gods, and they each seized a portion of his divine essence for themselves. The trio then journeyed into the Gray Waste and sought out the Castle of Bone.
Through armies of skeletons, legions of zombies, hordes or noncorporeal undead, and a gauntlet of liches they battled. Eventually they reached the object of their lifelong quest - the Bone Throne. "I claim this throne of evil," shouted Bane the tyrant. I'll destroy you before you can raise a finger," threatened Bhaal the assassin. And I shall imprison your essence for eternity," promised Myrkul the necromancer. Jergal arose from his throne with a weary expression and said, "The Throne is yours. I have grown weary of this empty power. Take it if you wish - I promise to serve and guide you as your seneschal until you grow comfortable with the position."
Before the stunned trio could react, the Lord of the Dead continued, "Who among you shall rule?" The trio immediately fell to fighting amongst themselves while Jergal looked on with indifference. When eventually it appeared that either they would all die of exhaustion or battle on for an eternity, the Lord of the End of Everything intervened. "After all you have sacrificed, would you come away with nothing? Why don't you divide the portfolios of the office and engage in a game of skill for them?" asked Jergal. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul considered the god's offer and agreed. Jergal took the heads of his three most powerful liches and gave them to the trio that they would compete by bowling the skulls. Each mortal rolled a skull across the Gray Waste, having agreed that the winner would be he who bowled the farthest.
Malar the Beastlord arrived to visit Jergal at this moment. After quickly ascertaining that the winner of the contest would get all of Jergal's power, he chased off after the three skulls to make sure that the contest would be halted until he had a chance to participate for part of the prize. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul again fell to fighting, as it was obvious their sport was ruined, and again Jergal intervened. "Why don't you allow Lady Luck to decide so you don't have to share with the Beast?"
The trio agreed, and Jergal broke off his skeletal finger bones and gave them to the players. When Malar returned form chasing the skulls, he found that the trio had just finished a game of knucklebones. Bane cried out triumphantly, "As winner, I choose to rule for all eternity as the ultimate tyrant. I can induce hatred and strife at my whim, and all will bow down before me while in my kingdom." Myrkul, who had won second place, declared, "But I choose the dead, and by doing so I truly win, because all you are lord over, Bane, will eventually be mine. All things must die - even gods."
Bhaal, who finished third, demurred, "I choose death, and it is by my hand that all that you rule Lord Bane will eventually pass to Lord Myrkul. Both of you must pay honor to me and obey my wishes, since I can destroy your kingdom Bane, by murdering your subjects, and I can starve your kingdom, Myrkul by staying my hand." Malar growled in frustration, but could do nothing, and yet again only the beasts were left for him. And Jergal merely smiled, for he had been delivered.
Myrkul, one of the Dark Gods, is the 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.
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, dedicated each 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. Breaking off his skeletal knucklebones after an argument over which of the three would rule over the other two, they were each thrown by the mortals to determine which of Jergal's portfolios they would recieve. Malar tried and failed to interrupt this game. 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 the defeated gods 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 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 has Myrkul unleashed armies of night riders astride gaunts against the still-living. Myrkul also sends bats, black phanters or leopards, hell hounds, nightmares, deepest red roses (that looks black and crumbles when touched), jet, obsidian, onyx, ravens, and crows to show his favor or disfavor and to aid the faithful and harass his enemies.
The Church of Myrkul
The faith of Myrkul has never been popular, nor is its priests numerous. Many venerated Myrkul out of fear, and offerings are made in his name at funerals and other solemn occasions, but few actually worships him as their primary faith. Myrkulite priests tend to be morbid loners who enjoy scaring others or enjoy the power of widespread rumors that it is death to touch a priest of Myrkul. Gray ones take care to conceal their identities, always leaving locales where they were born and raised.
The clergy of Myrkul is charged to make 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 are to teach the stories of past and future "doombringers" - mortals who roam the land, avenging dead friends, masters, an blood kin to whom they had sworn oaths, and slaying those who scoffed or who held other gods supreme than the Lord of Bones.
The holy symbol of Myrkul is displayed blatantly by his priests who feel no need to hide their allegiance as death will come to all eventually - sooner, it is rumored, for those foolish enough to molest a Myrkulite.
Myrkul, clergy members roamed the Realms burying the dead and conducting funerals for fees. Their immunity to diseases made them popular hirelings for the disposal of plague victims and dealings with infected lycanthropes and the diseased. They would do all they could to make the dying comfortable, but viewed death as natural, inevitable, and not something to be run from. They placed great value on the influence dead folk could have (referring to it as “the sacred hand that reaches from the grave”) and would assist dying folk to draft decrees, wills, and cryptic verses that would guide the living to search for their hidden treasure or otherwise dance to their bidding after they were dead.
In return for a “skull fee,” a priest of Myrkul would 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 accepted skull fees from a living person who recounted the wishes of a dead being, but only from deceased persons themselves in arrangements made before—sometimes years before—death.) While Myrkul rarely allowed 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.
Holy Days/Important Ceremonies
Myrkul was worshiped on a daily basis at dusk, and every devout follower was also to proffer a personal prayer at any time during the hours of darkness. The Dusking was a ritual involving bones, the ashes of cremated humans, and grave dust, and was a remembrance of how mortal all living beings are and how close death walks behind each creature. It was centered upon a floating, glowing (thanks to magic) skull that hovered above a black, bone-decorated block or table altar. Offerings were accepted at this time from folk who were not devout but who wished to appease the Lord of Bones. They typically had to kneel at altar when presenting their offerings. Tolling bells (deep and echoing, never tinkling or high and metallic) marked the opening and ending of this ritual and were struck once whenever an offering was made. There was only one calendar-related ritual observed by the Church of Myrkul.
The Feast of the Moon was known to the faithful of Myrkul as the ‘Day the Dead are Most With Us’. Myrkulytes believed that on that day the essences of all dead folk rose and drifted as unseen ghosts across Faerûn and sought their living descendants to deliver messages or warnings (by silently writing in dust, sand, or ashes, or by moving objects about, not by speech), or just to observe. To those who worshiped the Lord of Bones, this was 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 were set alight by spells so the spirits who drank of them could be warmed for a brief moments in their “eternal chill.”
The only other major rituals practiced by Myrkulytes involved funeral related observances and the ceremonies some used to accompany their raising (or forcing down) undead. Since these activities were often done for hire, they were frequently dressed up with sinister, impressive rituals to make folk regard the work of the priests more highly.
Major Centers of Worship
The Skullspire in Tulmon on the shores of the Lake of Steam is a soaring, slender black needle of a temple that overlooks both the town and the ruins known as the Crypt City immediately to the west of the inhabited settlement. Here Deep Elder Doom Haaeluth Muribaert, a soft-spoken but ice-hearted old man of frail health but rapier keen wits, presides over an energetic Conclave of Doom of senior clergy (known disrespectfully as “Jabberskulls Council” to Myrkulyte clergy members safely distant from “the shadow of the Spire”) that directs the lesser clergy members, trains them, and goes out among them often to watch what has befallen.
Some of these priests used to experiment with animating strange undead assemblages of jaws, claws, and the like from various known monsters and their work almost always disappeared down long linking tunnels to the Crypt City to emerge therein and lumber menacingly about. This church moved smoothly from worshiping Myrkul to worshiping Cyruk in 1358 DR, and then to worshiping Kelemvor in 1368 DR. The experiments with animating odd forms of undead have ceased since the church moved from worshiping Cyruk to the worship of Kelemvor, and now priests spend a lot of time in the crypts trying to destroy such undead as they once made. It is rumored that groups wishing to remain secret hold meetings and store valuables in the heart of the undead-haunted ruins, by financial arrangement with the Skullspire. These rumors are very likely true.
There are no known major temples to Myrkul in Sundren besides the looming Necropolis. While populated at first by the Dark Advent, the Necropolis has been reborn into the service of Myrkul with the discovery of the Crow of Horns: the artifact that is said to hold a large portion of Myrkul's essence. With the sponsorship of both Bane and Colibrus, Myrkul has reclaimed the Necropolis for his clergy and faithful, and it constantly spawns undead because of it.
The Knights of the Undying Dragon are an ancient order of undead crusaders who served 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.
All priests of Myrkul wore black robes with hooded cloaks, bound about the waist with a single sash of bone-white hue. Within temples they went barefoot and sometimes also bared their faces, but in public they were always masked, wearing half-masks (extending from the forehead to the upper cheeks) painted to resemble skulls. All exposed flesh was darkened with ash.
When adventuring, priests of Myrkul wore the best armor available. They always wore a dark hooded cloak along with their skull half-masks, and even while in the field, they continued to darken all their exposed flesh with ash. Priests of the Lord of Death felt no need to hide their allegiance as death would come to all eventually—sooner, it was rumored, for those foolish enough to molest a Myrkulyte.