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The Ashen CovenantEdit

The majority of cults dedicated to Orcus are, in a way, predictable evils. They seek destruction for its own sake, they collect innocent blood to slake their lord’s thirst, and they possess his hatred for all life. Horrible, yes. Vile, absolutely. But these are localized evils, which are manageable in their own way.

Ashencovenant

Living members of the Ashen Covenant

Once such a hidden cult has been unearthed, their goals and their methods can be anticipated. Others among the Prince of the Undead’s cults are not so predictable, nor randomly wanton, in their violence. Focused and driven, they spread pain, violence, and undeath not out of sheer joy of carnage, but for purposes far darker. Of these, one of the worst is dubbed the Ashen Covenant. 1


Goals and OrganizationEdit

Spearheaded by the zealous Elder Arantham, the Ashen Covenant is not a sect unto itself, but a movement growing in numbers throughout Orcus’s cults. Followers of the Covenant—also called Grave-Speakers, Ash-Bearers, and Disciples of the Hollowed Grave—are driven by a single goal: to aid the ascension of their prince to the throne of the Raven Queen, and to help him gain sovereignty over all dead souls. Through ancient magic and theologies, the Ashen Covenant seeks to fundamentally change the cycle of life.  Undeath will no longer be an abomination, requiring the working of terrible necromancies, but the natural consequence of life. Everyone who dies will rise once more into a shambling undead existence. Orcus will supplant the Raven Queen because undeath will have supplanted death. Having received inspiration from Orcus in dreams that came to him in the dark of night—despite the fact that undead do not sleep—Elder Arantham redoubled his focus on aiding the demon’s ascent to the Raven Queen’s domain. He preached long and eloquently about every worshiper’s duty to aid in that goal, and he claimed that this should become the defining effort of all Orcus’s cults. Naturally, when word reached them, the leaders of other cults disagreed. But many of their followers were convinced, enough for Arantham’s ideals to become the basis of a movement that would spread throughout the cults of Orcus. This was the birth of the Ashen Covenant a compact, Arantham claimed, between Orcus and his followers that would change the natural order of the world. 1

The Covenants LeadershipEdit

The Ashen Covenant doesn’t have an internal ranking structure, since it has yet to claim its own identity as an independent entity. Rather, its members wield whatever authority their ranks and positions in their own cults provide them. Several members, however, wield great power, and are held in great esteem, by all who follow the Grave-Speakers’ teachings. 1

Elder AranthamEdit

He is a devout believer in Orcus’s teachings and the superiority of the undead over the living. He revels in his undead state and his lack of humanity, and he looks forward to the day that he can finally change the natural order, and share this gift with all living creatures. Nothing is more important to him than the ultimate achievement of the Covenant’s goals.Yet for all that, he sees himself as a true religious and community leader, with a responsibility to his flock. To other undead, and to the living beings who are part of his cult and his movement, he can be patient, even kind. He makes time to meet with them, to advise them on their problems, to celebrate their victories. He would turn on any of them in an instant if his goals mandated it, or if they proved themselves unworthy, but he does see them as his wards, and not just his pawns. He almost never loses his temper—at least overtly. He might be seething inside, and he shares the capacity for violent rage with his demonic lord, but it hardly ever shows in his voice or what’s left of his face. He appears calm and controlled, even when he is not. 1

Mauglurien the Black DragonEdit

Named for his dark beard, dark armor, and dark temperament, the so-called “Black Dragon” is a war-leader in the service of Orcus, and the master of a mercenary company known as the Ebon Riders. In truth, the Ebon Riders are a cult of the Blood Lord, using their position as soldiers-for-hire as an excuse to shed blood in Orcus’s name, and earn a bit of coin in the process. The true nature of the Ebon Riders is a well-kept secret, allowing the company to serve in conflicts where worshipers of Orcus would be eschewed by both sides.

Mauglurien has a traditional dwarf build: broad-shouldered and stocky. His hair and beard are a midnight black; the former is tied tightly back in a tail, but he allows the beard to hang wild. His armor is as dark as his hair and etched with draconic motifs. He never goes anywhere, or even so much as crosses a room, without the brutally jagged axe Boneshredder by his side.The Black Dragon looks more alive than most death knights. Although his flesh has sunken around his bones, grown cracked and leathery, his undead nature is not blatant from a distance. The gleam in his eyes is a dull violet, invisible in even moderate lighting, and his beard hides the worst of the decay on his face. With only a bit of preparation and makeup, Mauglurien can pass as a living dwarf—albeit one who has clearly led a rough life—as long as he doesn’t permit a detailed inspection.

Mauglurien

Mauglurien the Black Dragon: Leader of the Ebon Riders

 He lives for battle and bloodshed. For a time, he offered his allegiance to other martial gods- first to Kord, then to Gruumsh. But none slaked his lust for both violence and power as did the unbridled ferocity of Orcus's cult. The promise of undead immortality eventually won the Black Dragon over. Now, he has developed a zealous devotion to Orcus that goes beyond his love of violence. he has truly come to believe in the demon and undead dominated world Orcus offers, a belief that grew only stronger still with his transformation into a death knight. Although his devotion to Orcus is deep and sincere, he does not frequently make overt displays of his faith. To those who don’t know him, he acts like a typical (if powerful) warrior for hire, whose faith is of less importance than the opportunity to shed blood and earn gold. He is a big believer in organized combat, and he prefers fighting alongside warriors he knows he can count on to standing on his own.He has a fierce temper and lashes out viciously at those who anger him. He does not believe in any such thing as a “minor insult.” Someone is either on his good side, or his enemy. Although he greatly respects Elder Arantham’s objectives, Arantham’s refusal to see the wisdom in his own philosophies is slowly but surely moving the priest toward the status of “enemy.” The time might come when the Ebon Riders and all other Grave-Speakers who support his methods might have to break away from Arantham’s grasp. 1

Khavra AktiEdit

A female eladrin wizard with unhealthy fascination for all things related to death and necromancy. The mastermind behind the Planar Annexation theory of the Ashen Covenent. 1

ShonvurruEdit

An undead marilith who is possibly the only member of the Covenant with power on par with Elder Arantham. The spokesperson for the New Genisis theory. 1

Sithas TyrrEdit

A human paladin of the Blood Lord, spearheads the followers of thie philosophy of Extortion. 1

“Mad Animator” Kielno VarimEdit

A mad tiefling warlock and by far the most outspoken proponent of the "Weight of Numbers" theory. 1

The Coming SchismEdit

Today, the Ashen Covenant is one of the largest unified movements among Orcus’s worshipers. It still lacks sufficient cohesion to break off into its own global sect—partly because its members are geographically scattered between the various cults, and partly because the various factions within the movement cannot agree on how best to accomplish their goals. And as more worshipers flock to Arantham’s words, placing adherence to his teachings over loyalty to their own cult leaders, it can only be a matter of time until the Ashen Covenant becomes a world-spanning entity all its own.Yet even as it borders on independence, the Covenant faces a potential schism of its own. The warlord Mauglurien, leader of the Ebon Riders, has grown dissatisfied with Elder Arantham’s leadership. Though not so powerful or charismatic as the huecuva, the warlord has followers of his own—and as his philosophies gain more support, his faction grows ever nearer the day when it must split from the Ashen Covenant. When that happens, none can say if the differences between the two factions will erupt in sectarian warfare—but given the chaotic and bloodthirsty nature of those involved, it seems likely indeed. 1

The Undecided GoalEdit

The Covenant seeks to elevate Orcus to the Raven Queen’s throne by changing the natural order of the world itself. In Elder Arantham’s vision, undeath is the natural end to life. All creatures that die would rise again—not due to necromantic rituals, or planar conjunction with the Shadowfell, but naturally. It’s a lofty goal, if a demented one, and not easy to achieve. In fact, the Ashen Covenant is split into numerous subsects along philosophical lines, as its members argue over what method might best accomplish this objective. Elder Arantham has yet to choose one particular means as the Covenant’s focus, instead allowing each faction to try to prove that their philosophy is most likely to succeed. Each philosophy is, perforce, based heavily on theology, speculation, and guesswork—though their adherents are only too happy to conduct whatever experiments are necessary to prove their point. 1

Divine ReanimationEdit

One of the largest factions believes that they need slay the Raven Queen and reanimate her as an undead god. This, they claim, will allow undeath to replace death in the natural order—and even should it not, it would place the Raven Queen under Orcus’s dominion.Others argue that even if the Covenant had the power to do this, undeath is no guarantee that a god must bow to Orcus. Witness Vecna, they say. Yet those who believe seem convinced that, if slain and reanimated by disciples of the Blood Lord, the Raven Queen would prove a different case. The loudest proponent of this theory is the dwarf death knight Mauglurien, leader of the Ebon Riders, whose anger that Arantham has not adopted this philosophy grows daily. 1

Planar AnnexationEdit

This theory suggests that Orcus would control all dead souls and replace death with undeath in the natural cycle, if he could annex the Shadowfell into his own Abyssal realm. They point out that numerous planes already overlap the natural world; if those “extrusions” could be stretched through the world, allowing the Elemental Chaos to form stronger bonds with the Shadowfell, then Orcus could flood the realm of the dead with his own undead and demons. Eventually, they claim, the sheer weight of Abyssal energy would drag the Shadowfell into permanent conjunction with Thanatos. 1

New GenisisEdit

A minority—and a growing one—of Covenant members, maintains that, as the gods only shaped the world, the Ash-Bearers must turn to the power of those who created it. They believe that only the primordials have the power to so fundamentally change the world, and that the Covenant should be seeking primordial-created magic from the dawn of time, or else hunting for means to manipulate the surviving primordials themselves. With such power at their fingertips, even the gods could not stop them from reshaping reality as they see fit. 1

ExtortionEdit

Many Grave-Speakers believe that the simplest path is to find something that even the gods fear and force them to change the world. This movement has not grown since its inception, since its members cannot agree on what, exactly, would strike such terror into the gods. Nevertheless, the idea continues to thrive. 1

Weight of NumbersEdit

Perhaps the most straightforward of the Covenant’s competing philosophies is based on the notion that the best way to change the world is, well, to change the world. They believe that if the undead ever outnumber the truly dead, the “weight of reality” will tip, with undeath replacing death. Straightforward, perhaps, but hardly easy. None can honestly say how many sentient beings have lived and died since the dawn of history; it might be an impossible task, by the numbers. Nevertheless, the faction focuses their efforts on animating undead in unprecedented numbers. 1

Items of Importance

Some of the following items were created by the Ashen Covenant or by other worshipers of Orcus. Others have no direct connection to the sect, but the Grave-Speakers collect them, either to make use of their abilities or to prevent others from using them. 1

Created by worshipers of Orcus

Collected to keep out of the hands of enemies

ReferencesEdit

  1. Dragon 364 (Wizards of The Coast - 2008) - The Ashen Covenant By Ari Marmell

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