Lord of Worms, Prince of Plague, Master of Decay, The Undead King
|Domain||Death, Suffering, Sickness, Plague, Corruption|
|Typical Worshipers||Necromancers, witches, warriors, various others|
|Head of the Church||His Dread, the Blight Lord Dread Lord Karrushyk|
|Demographics||46% Human, 16% Orc, 12% Ogre, 7% Saurian, 6% Goblin, 5% Dwarven, 4% Sayune, 4% Other|
|Geographic Regions||Scattered worshiped across Ithria.|
|Opposed Faiths||The Elder Gods, the Celestials, the Kindred Gods.|
|Holy Symbol||A skull.|
Barulda is known by many names: the Lord of Worms, the Prince of Plague, Master of Decay and the Undead King. He is the god of death, suffering, sickness, plague and corruption.
Barulda is the stuff of nightmares. He is depicted as a towering skeleton cloaked in moldering robes. Strips of rotting flesh hang from his bones and strands of hair cling to his bony skull. His eye sockets are empty except for twin fiery orbs. He carries with him a great leather bound tome in which is penned the name of every living thing and its time of death. Plants wither and die as he passes. His slightest touch inflicts disease and he can kill with his gaze if he so chooses. Any undead creature that merely looks at him comes under his command. Barulda himself cannot be killed or even wounded in battle. His very form is inviolate.
Barulda is assocated with the number seven, the color black and the blood red moon Mektor. In many regions of Ithria, it is considered unlucky to speak his name aloud.
Myths and Legends
Believers claim that Barulda is the living embodiment of Death. He has always existed and will always exist. His priests claim that he was already ancient long before Imarus came and gave Order to the primordial Chaos.
According to the stories, Barulda inhabits a vast and terrible fortress in another dimension. This citadel is built of stone and flesh and bones, where the walls bleed and the towers groan in agony. Here he is served by armies of the dead. Barulda travels to all realms and all worlds, slaying those whose time has come. There is no place that is inaccessible to him. There is no creature he cannot find. Death finds us all.
Those who worship Barulda faithfully enjoy a different fate. When their time comes, the faithful are not slain. They are instead granted eternal life in Barulda’s realm.
Overview of the Church
The church of Barulda is a cult of necromancy, hidden temples and horrifying undead monsters. It is home to a host of evil and selfish people who seek to gain power over death and use that power against others. Its priests wield dark magic, experiment on living creatures, raise foul undead beings and sacrifice victims. Barulda and those who follow him care nothing for the world of the living. Most people are viewed as pawns to be manipulated or cattle to feed upon.
The church of Barulda is one of the smaller cults of the world. Despite it’s small size and narrow focus, it’s infamy is widespread. This cult is so thoroughly despicable that it is outlawed in almost every land.
Because this faith is so widely feared and hated, its temples tend to be located in wilderness regions, borderlands and unclaimed territories. Its major temples lie well hidden in festering swamps, large forests and mountain ranges. There are seven major temples in this faith. They can be found in the Dark Wood, the Mist Forest, the Citadel, Tyrrenkor, the Barakose Swamp, the Trackless Mire and Asylum. The temple in the Trackless Mire is the faith’s oldest, largest and most important temple. This temple leads the faith.
History and Origins
Despite the grandiose claims of the priests, historians actually have a fairly good idea of the origins of this cult. There are several historical records from the Thullian Empire that mention a secret guild of necromancers who called themselves “Death Masters”. This was a small but wealthy group that controlled a good deal of magical prowess. The group met often to exchange potion formulae, collaborate on spells and further their studies. Their chief goal was to expand their knowledge of necromancy. The Death Masters become known for robbing grave yards, experimenting on human corpses and raising the dead as monstrous undead creatures that did their bidding. Several attacks by “walking corpses” were noted in town militia records from the time. In fact, the earliest reports of undead are attributed to the activities of this group. The Thullian Empire made several attempts to stamp the group out. In 323 TIC, a group of imperial knights, known as the Militant Order of the Shining Blade, was tasked by the emperor himself to stop this group.
As a result of all this imperial attention, the Death Masters went into hiding and became very secretive and covert. In 327 TIC, they established a stronghold hidden in the depths of a forested region (where the Barakose Swamp now lies). In this hidden forest temple, the group continued their work in peace.
In 415 TIC, a man named Karius joined the group. He was a talented necromancer and rose quickly through the ranks. In 427 TIC, Karius claimed to be having waking dreams and began babbling nonsense. At the same time, he began to demonstrate unusual magical powers. Several members of the group believed Karius was a prophet and that he was indeed communing with some greater power. Fearing that his position might be usurped, the group’s leader, a man named Froma, ordered Karius be locked up. For seven months, Karius babbled and scribbled nonsense on the walls of his cell. Those who believed in Karius' visions argued for his release. Dissent quickly spread through the ranks of the group. Accusations gave way to assaults and soon a full blown rebellion tore the group apart. By the end of it, Froma and those loyal to him were dead and Karius was freed. Karius took control of the group and bound his writings into a great tome which he called the Book of the Dead.
Beginning in 428 TIC, the group began to take on the trappings of a religious group. Karius led the others in prayer sessions and magical rituals meant to contact the greater power, who he now named "Barulda". As the years went by, this group became more and more like a cult. Karius inspired fanatical devotion in those who followed him. Historians debate whether Karius was actually in contact with some extra dimensional being or perhaps had tapped into some hidden magical talent that he alone possessed. In any case, he had the group’s loyalty and belief in this Barulda. This group found new direction and purpose under Karius’ leadership and their magical abilities increased considerably. This continued until Karius’ death in 464 CY.
In keeping with his wishes, the group used powerful spells he had given them and specially prepared talismans to raise him in another form. The ritual was successful and Karius returned as an undead monstrosity… a creature of bloodied bone and rotting flesh. He was not alive or dead, but something in between. Karius claimed to have met with Barulda and brought back arcane secrets with him. In his new form, Karius took the group down darker paths as they delved into even more powerful necromantic magic.
The Militant Order of the Shining Blade had hunted and battled the Death Masters for more than a century. In 468 TIC, they discovered the hidden forest temple of the Death Masters and attacked. The paladin commander Mardar led an army against the Death Masters. The Death Masters invoked their most powerful magicks and the Thullian army found itself hacking their way through waves of skeletons and other undead creatures. However, Commander Mardar had wizards of his own and much greater numbers. After two days of fighting, the forest temple was taken. In a climactic battle, the undead Karius was himself defeated by Mardar, who ordered the undead thing be burnt to ash. When the battle was over, twenty eight Death Masters were captured alongside scores of soldiers, apprentices, servants and slaves. On the orders of Commander Mardar, the forest temple was burned.
The Death Masters and their followers wallowed in prison for months while imperial nobles argued over what to do with them. This situation might have ended in their execution, but Fate had other plans. In the midst of summer of 470 TIC, the Focusing unraveled and the Sundering struck. This cataclysm shook the world, leveled towns and burned forests. Amidst the landquakes, a tremendous rift split open the prison with many prisoners falling to their death. In the chaos, the Death Masters and many of their servants escaped the prison and fled. To this day, the Death Masters claim it was Barulda’s hand that shook the world and granted them their freedom.
Over several months, the group made their way west, gathering followers as they went. In the chaos of the World Storm, they found many that wanted a way to survive at any cost, even if it meant following a death god.
They soon came to a small bog south of the newly formed Captured Sea. On the banks of a large river within, they began to rebuild. They found no shortage of corpses to the north, where tens of thousands of dead had washed ashore. They began to gather the corpses and carry them into the bog. There they work their spells and began to raise new undead servants. These skeletal abominations, never tiring and never complaining, worked night and day for over a year to build a keep for the Death Masters. The Death Masters took to their new home as it was being built. Construction was completed in 3 CY. This small stone keep was name Death's Gate.
The centuries unfolded and the group slowly expanded. They slowly developed rank and ritual and protocol. Leaders rose, aged, passed on and were replaced. By 400 CY, the group consisted for 100 priests and another 300 servants and slaves.
The location of their new home proved fortuitous. Over the centuries that followed, that small bog grew endlessly. By 750 CY, the bog had more than ten times its original size and was beginning to become known as the Trackless Mire. From 870 to 875 CY, Death's Gate underwent a massive rebuilding in which it was repaired and greatly expanded. It was also built more about a central hall and altar, to function more as a proper temple.
In 994 CY, several dozen priests along with a baggage train of servants, slaves and undead creatures left the Trackless Mire and ventured east to the Darkwood where they settled and constructed a second temple. This was the first of several new temples that would be built over the centuries. These new temples expanded the reach of the church. The temples communicate with each other with magic.
By 1300 CY, the Trackless Mire reached its modern day size. Death's Gate lies near the very heart of the Mire. The vast swamp around the temple has helped protect the cult and kept it hidden through history, allowing it to thrive and grow.
At the present time, the church has seven major temples and several smaller churches and shrines. Many of these smaller shrines are hidden away in more civilized lands.
The church of Barulda has many plots and plans, but their overarching goal is of a truly epic scale. The end goal of this church is to eventually slay the living, all living everywhere, and raise all beings in the form of undead, over which Barulda himself will reign eternal. Needless to say, this makes them the least popular faith. It is said that “only fanatics and fools serve the Lord of Worms”.
Temples, Churches and Holy Sites
Barulda’s major temples lie in remote uncivilized regions. Each such temple is a grand stone citadel, completely self-reliant, with vast stores to withstand any siege and usually located such that no army could easily besiege it.
The dark necromancy of the death masters is worked into the very stones of their citadels. Rotting corpses and skeletal bodies are integrated into the very architecture of the temple. Each is “alive” and moving, protruding from corridor walls and so forth. These silent sentinels keep watch over the temple, positioned in corridors, junctions, intersections and important doorways. They will turn their heads silently to watch the living pass by. The priests of the temple are able to see and hear through these sentinels. These sentinels are not always a whole corpse. Many times, it will be a torso and head or even a single disembodied eye.
Each temple hides an even darker terror below. In the bowels of the temple, in a great cavern beneath the main altar, there dwells a monster. This thing is a horrific, mass of rotting humanoid corpses merged into a single mass by a network of sinew and tendon and putrid flesh. These nightmares are said to be animated by the dark will of Barulda, serving as his avatars in the mortal realm. Each individual rotting corpse within the whole writhes and struggles, as if still alive, moaning in silent agony. The priests claim that what these monstrous avatars see, Barulda knows.
Those lost souls who worship Barulda do so, in part, to appease the Prince of Plague. In worshiping Barulda, they seek to ward off disease and delay death. Others seek his benevolence in order that they may strike their enemies down with sickness and gain power over others. Finally, some seek control over the shadowy realm between… the path of the necromancer. Through the dark arts of this faith, one can raise and control all manner of undead things. Different sects of this faith specialize in different aspects ranging from alchemy to pure necromancy to twisted corruptions of metal and machine.
Allied and Opposed Faiths
Allied with none. Neutral toward most of the other Dark Lords. Fiercely opposed to the Elder Gods, the Celestials and the Kindred Gods. Barulda is most directly opposed to Barrinor as the two churches have been waging war against each other for centuries.
Death is the ultimate fate of all things, it is the gateway to beyond. And the Dark Art of necromancy is the key to that gate. We who have mastered the Dark Art have no need to fear death. The flesh is weak, made low by decadance and disease, plague and pestilence. But these things belong to the Lord of Worms and through his might, we are made strong. With spell and fire and iron and brew, we mold the living, we raise the dead, we corrupt the Pure, we purify the Tainted and we enslave Time itself. All things are possible in the shadow of the Undead King. We fear not death, for we are Death. Give yourself to Him and He will set you free.
The Book of the Dead is the tome penned by the prophet Karius in 428 TIC. It consists of four sections: Rituals, Spells, Philosophies and Histories. Every temple has multiple copies of this book and most priests eventually transcribe a copy for themselves. It is church law that whenever Barulda’s name appears in this book, it must be written in blood.
Priests of this faith carry a holy symbol with them at all times. The holy symbol of this faith is a humanoid skull, typically mounted at the top of a staff or rod. The material and composition of this holy symbol changes as the priest rises in rank (see below). It is tradition that each priest uses a skull of his or her own race.
When a follower of Barulda decides to begin the journey toward priesthood, there is a special ceremony held wherein the new acolyte “dies” and is “reborn” into their new role. This ritual involves the faithful being given a drink of slumber oil which causes a comatose state that is almost death like. The faithful is sealed in a coffin, buried in the ground (comatose, but alive) and left overnight. Sometimes this is done privately and sometimes publicly. If public, the friends and family of the individual are often led to believe that the individual had actually died. The next morning, the person is dug up by the priests, given an antidote to revive them and ritually bathed. Their hair is usually cut and dyed black. They are given new clothes and a new name. All things of the old life are abandoned. The person is “reborn” into a new life as an acolyte of the church of Barulda. The acolyte is required to sever all ties with their former life as if they had actually died. Depending on the circumstnaces, a gravestone in a cemetery may even be created for the newly "deceased". From that point on, the acolyte is a member of the priesthood.
Once every few weeks, when the blood red moon of Mektor is full, the faithful gather at temple or shrine to worship. At the height of each ceremony, a living victim is sacrificed. The smaller groups will sacrifice the victim upon the altar of their hidden shrine. This victim is then later raised as an undead skeletal warrior to serve the group. At the major temples, there is a great circular door in the floor before the altar. The sacrificial victim is cast down through the door into the cavern below where it is “absorbed” into the massive writhing abomination which dwells below.
Besides the Gathering, there is only one other major holy day. This day is known as Barulda's Day. On the seventh day of the seventh month, followers and priest from all over will make a pilgrimmage to the nearest temple to pay their respects to Barulda and make offerings. At such annual temple gatherings, worthy priests are promoted. Priests that have displeased Barulda are punished.
Priests of Barulda serve at either one of the seven major temples or out in the world. Those groups out in the world may be in a city, town or village. Those groups in such civilized surroundings are usually forced to meet secretly. The size and nature of the group depends a great deal on what town or city they are in. Regardless, the group will consist of common followers, several acolytes and at least one death master to lead them. Larger groups may have several death masters and be led by a plague master.
Each group will have a specific holy place where they meet. This is typically a hidden chamber with a shrine. It may be in a secret subterranean chamber under the city or hidden in a building outside of the village. It could even be in a cave overlooking the town. In any case, each group has its own secret shrine that is well hidden. The members of a group will meet with the others at their secret location for the Gathering whenever the red moon Mektor is full. These secret night time meetings involve witchcraft, ritual and usually culminate in a sacrifice. Members of the group are very careful about not being discovered and use magic to aid in remaining hidden from the authorities and priests of Imarus.
The priests of Barulda have five distinct ranks. As they advance in rank, they undergo a noticeable physical transformation. They become taller, thinner and more gaunt. They gradually begin to look undead themselves. This is a side effect of the magic Barulda bestows upon them. As their magical ability increases, so their life force changes. At each rank, they destroy their former holy symbol and create a new one that is appropriate for their rank. Each rank's holy symbol is different from the one before.
Likewise, as priests progress in rank, their magic becomes more potent, they gain specific spell abilities. As priests rise in rank, they tend to specialize. Some will pursue alchemy as their primary focus and will develop the skills to brew a variety of very powerful magical potions. Other priests focus on pure necromancy - creating, controlling and destroying undead creatures. This pure necromancy also involves stealing life force, death spells, heal spells, spells that wound and so forth.
Finally, there are those priests who focus on merging metal and flesh. These priests practice a form of magic that merges necromancy with the making of golems and other automatons. Metal is grafted to flesh. Weapons and armor are implanted into the body. Tubes, pipes, wires, pistons, gears and other clockwork mechanical implants are also common. Sometimes these things are surgically added to the bodies of the living, sometimes they are incorporated into the creation of undead.
A few rare death masters have managed to merge all three - creating creatures that are half dead, with metal merged to their bodies and potions flowing through tubes in the body. Regardless of what spells they study or skills their choose to learn, each priests' path is unique.
During gatherings and rituals, priests of Barulda wear black robes and masks fashioned from the skulls of defeated enemies. In public, they wear black clothing and usually at least one piece of jewelry fashioned from bone.
The Common Worshipers
The lowest tier of the church is composed of the common worshipers. These individuals worship Barulda, but are not priests. They usually worship secretly. Some even maintain small hidden shrines to him in their home. They pray to him to ward off illness and for long life. Many pray to him to afflict their enemies with disease. There are even some, normally good folk, who pray to Barulda to return a deceased love one to them. The priests do occasionally grant magical boons among the common worshipers. The occasional wound healed or illness cured is enough to keep the faith strong.
The first rank of the priesthood is the acolytes. The acolytes, having just undergone the Rebirth ritual, are the newest and youngest priests. They perform the most menial tasks of the church and spend much of their time studying. They learn the basics of necromancy and learn to brew alchemical concoctions that can bestow or cure mild injuries and illnesses. Most minor undead creatures will not attack acolytes, but will simply ignore them. As acolytes progress in their studies, they tend to grow paler and their hair eventually turns black. Acolytes usually have wooden or clay skulls as their holy symbols.
The Bone Masters
After a few years of service, an acolyte will be promoted to the second rank, that of Bone Master. The Bone Masters perform most of the common duties of the church and attend to the priests above them. Bone Masters also help minister to the common followers. Bone Masters learn to repel undead by force of will. They can concoct more potent alchemical preparations with a wider variety of effects, including sleep potions, poisons and acids. Priests of this rank continue to grow taller, more gaunt and more pale. The Bone Masters use polished skulls as their holy symbol.
The Death Masters
The third rank are the Death Masters. They constitute the bulk of the priesthood. They perform most of the day to day operatons of the temple and minister to the faithful. Death Master priests have a wide variety of potent spells are their diposal. They are able to create undead through complex alchemy and rituals. They are also able to repel and destroy undead with their magic. They heal rapidly and need little sleep. Death Masters are taller than other members of their race, very thin and pale. Their sunken black eyes are able to see the life energy of others. Hence, a death master can easily see and fight another being, even in the pitch black of night. Death Masters begin to exhibit signs of disease, as their hair begins to thin and fall out and they suffer lesions and skin eruptions. They have an overpowering thirst for blood of their own race. They are granted magic to cloak themselves in illusion to appear normal and healthy, when needed. For their holy symbol, Death Masters mount skulls atop their staves, but these skulls are bloody, with bits of flesh and often times an eye.
The Plague Lords
The fourth rank is the Plague Lords. These are the ranking priests of the faith. In the major temples, several plague lords will serve the Dread Lord. In the smaller churches and shrines, each plague lord typically leads a group of Barulda worshipers and is served by several Death Masters. Plague lords have very powerful spells of necromancy. Plague lords are able to inflict disease with a touch. Plague lords begin to exhibit extreme physical changes. Their eyes are completely black and can see in the dark easily as well as being able to see the life force of creatures. The flesh of their bodies is pale, diseased and beginning to rot. They now must drink blood of their own race, every day. They are granted powerful magic to cloak themselves in the illusion that they are normal and healthy. Plague lords are able to create, command and destroy a variety of powerful undead creatures. Plague lords heal at a very fast rate and do not require sleep at all. Their holy symbol is a freshly killed humanoid head, typically little more than a skull with rotting flesh. Before the last bit of flesh rots off, they are required to slay another humanoid, sever its head and mount the fresh head on their staff as a new holy symbol.
The Dread Lord
The highest rank is the Dread Lord. There are only seven Dread Lords. Each one rules a temple and each is served by a group of plague lords. It is said that Dread Lords have command over death. If the stories are true, they can slay with a word and breathe life back into the dead! They can conjure undead beings into existence merely by commanding the dead to crawl from their graves and serve them. Dread Lords themselves are humanoid, but their flesh is rotting from their bones. They themselves have become undead. They now subsist only on blood. Plague lords do not bother with illusions to play at being anything other than what they are. There is no need, for they never leave their temples. Their holy symbols are skulls covered in bloody rotting flesh, but the flesh is actually alive, pulsating, the skull constantly writhing in pain and bleeding, the eyes seeing. This is the most powerful holy symbol that only the Dread Lords carry.
This website was last updated March 31, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.