Forgotten Realms: Empire of Ashes
The Prelacy of Thanatos
Ruled by a powerful circle of necromancers and death-priests – primarily the living, undead, and demonic vassals of the demon prince Orcus – the Prelacy governs the Imperial Provinces of Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan, and exerts naval power through the Lake of Steam, and the Shining Sea. Through powerful magic, the High Prelates have blotted out the sun in these lands, plunging them into eternal moonless midnight, allowing the creatures of the night to walk the lands and streets at will, and cementing the hold of the forces of darkness.
The Circle of Bones – The events leading up to the return of the Empire, as well as the lightning-fast conquest of the West, had much to do with the actions of an alliance of demonic and undead cults, who manipulated circumstances to ensure that the military and trade centers of the South would fall quickly. Operating behind city morticians’ guilds, and the churches and cults of various other death gods (primarily those of Cyric and Kelemvor, but also a holdout cult of Myrkul), the Circle of Bones — made up of the Cult of the Dragon, the Twisted Rune, and the Cult of Orcus — secretly planted vast armies of specially-prepared corpses (which awoke to become Rune-Wights) within and around cities and strongholds throughout the land. When the first of the Black Citadels returned, the arch-liches and high priests of the Circle completed their great spell, calling the dead into service and quenching the daylight.
The Cult of Orcus – Long thought dead at the hands of a treacherous drow goddess who usurped his Abyssal mien and stronghold, the Demon Prince of the Vengeful Dead has returned from the depths of the Underworld to reclaim his former kingdom, and wreak terrible revenge on the world. Since the initial conquest, internal power struggles have consolidated rulership in the hands of the Cult of Orcus, and now the demon prince’s minions and vassals hold sway throughout the lands of the South. Four of the five High Prelates are his servants, and most of the clerics and unholy warriors of the Prelacy revere him and call upon his dark power for their magic and abilities.
The Ashen Order – The military right arm of the Prelacy, the Order of the Ashen Heart is so named because many of its members were once knights and paladins of the Order of the Radiant Heart, but have since been embraced into the dark folds of undeath. Others are ancient warriors and champions of evil, called back into service by the Prelacy’s necromancers and demonologists. Vampires, death knights, and other undead warriors make up the bulk of the Order, although more than a few demonic warriors and living blackguards – all sworn (or bound) into the service of Orcus – claim membership.
The Crimson Sails – Ghost ships and newly commissioned (undead-crewed) warships alike patrol the Lake of Steam and Shining Sea, a fearless and unstoppable navy of ancient mariners bound into the service of the Prelacy and its demonic Prince. The inky magics of the High Prelates’ profane spell extend eternal night as far as the coasts of Chult and the southernmost points of the Nelanther Isles, and with it, the influence of the Prelacy.
The Cult of the Dragon & the Twisted Rune – The undead archmages and dracoliches of the Cult of the Dragon and the Twisted Rune each saw the Circle of Bones as one stepping stone on the road to ruling the world themselves. Since the Empire’s success, and Orcus’ ascendancy within the Prelacy, they’ve found themselves marginalized – the most willful of their leaders have been destroyed or otherwise “dealt with,” and the rest relegated to servile roles. The one exception is an ancient lich of the Cult of the Dragon, the fifth and most powerful of the High Prelates. His endless patience, prudence, and paranoia have kept him from falling into obsolescence – not to mention his alliance with several dracoliches.
Rune-wights – The bulk of the Prelacy’s armies are terrifying undead creatures known as rune-wights, corpses imbued with terrible life and powers, and protected by potent wards. Far from mindless zombies, they are possessed of a malign and ruthless cunning, and a craving for the flesh of the living.
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