The church of Myrkul, also known as the Gray Ones, or (disparagingly) Fingerbones, was the predominant organization dedicated to the worship and veneration of the Lord of the Dead, Myrkul. It was not a popular faith in Faerûn, whose members were often looked upon as secretive, morbid loners, who were obsessed with death and enjoyed seeing fear in others. While that might have been the case in some instances, they were dedicated to the care of the dying and deceased.
Myrkulytes viewed death with profound respect and took great care to help those who were dying feel as comfortable as possible, tending to their last wishes, presiding over funerals, and serving as undertakers and caretakers in cemeteries across the Realms.
They believed that death was an inevitability of life, an aspect that mortals should not attempt to flee. As such, they held the influence of the dead in extremely high regard.
While many Faerûnians openly made offerings to Myrkul out of fear, such as during funeral services or when honoring their dead, his clergy were more secretive in their worship. As was the common perception, these faithful were a reclusive and macabre lot who remained stoic, almost aloof, to their surroundings. They often concealed their pre-church lives from their fellow clergy and membership within the church from those outside. Yet there were some followers of Myrkul that sincerely romanticized the concept of death and joined due to their attraction to the teachings of Myrkul's high priests.
"The sacred hand that reaches from the grave" - a phrase in reference to the sway the deceased had over the living.
The Myrkulyte clergy were tasked with making the mortals of Faerûn fear and respect death, as well as the power of Myrkul. They were expected to propagate two seemingly conflicting beliefs about themselves. First, that their clergy possessed absolute patience and trustworthiness, and second, that touching them would bring upon certain death. Their actions were meant to reflect these "truths". They shared stories of the church's doombringers, champions of Myrkul who traveled Faerûn avenging the deaths of those to whom they had sword oaths or slaying those who mocked the Lord of Bones.
In service to others, Myrkulyte clerics would travel the Realms offering burial and funeral services to the loved ones of the recently-deceased, for a fee. When called upon to assist the dying, they did all in their power to make them comfortable, offering their perspective that death was a inevitable transition from life. Whenever it was required they assisted those who were dying with their remaining affairs, such as final decrees and last wills and testaments.
In return for a "skull fee" a Myrkulyte priest would act as an agent for someone after their death, carrying out any final arrangements or deeds they could not complete in life.
Priests of Myrkul were experienced necrologists, in that they spent much of their time studying lore regarding the undead. They were well-versed in their identification, abilities
The titles within the church of Myrkul were tied to specific rituals and duties they performed upon ascension to that rank. In descending order they were:
- Knightly Orders
- Knights of the Undying Dragon: This long-forgotten order of death knights have served as the champions of Myrkul for decades.
Prayers to Myrkul were offered at dusk, while his faithful were expected to perform their personal worship during in the darkness of night. Myrkulyte priests were rarely allowed to raise the dead on their own accord. However they would perform the rite for those of other faiths who brought a dead body to one of their temples.
The dusking was a ritual performed as a reminder of the world's collective mortality, that death waiting for ever living being on Toril. The non-faithful were allowed to make offerings to appease the Lord of the Dead.
The church of Myrkul observed one day of remembrance that was linked to the calendar of Harptos. The Day the Dead are Most With Us, which landed between the months of Uktar and Nightal, was seen as the time of the year where the spirits of the dead would rise from the Underworld and float unseen across Toril. It was believed they would seek out their surviving loved ones and descendants, and leave silent messages to them throughout the day. Mykulytes would celebrate the dead with chants and hymns, culminating in the Flagons of the Fallen ritual which was performed at midnight.
Temples of Myrkul were an uncommon in Faerûn, typically taking the form of a mausoleum built above sprawling, subterranean necropolis. Their exteriors were often adorned with gargoyles and shrouded by the smoke of their crematories. Within their underground halls were scores of stone statues of dead and decaying men, women and children. There were scores of undead roaming the chambers of these crypts, the most prominent of which were skeletal in nature.
- Legacy of Deep Death: The only temple of Myrkul that was established after the Time of Troubles was established by three Myrkulyte liches on the sea bed under the Sea of Swords.
- Skullspire: This massive spire in Tulmon was the meeting place of the Conclave of Doom, serving as the training area for initiates and staging area for activities performed by the lesser clerics.
Equipment, spells and relicsEdit
Priests of Myrkul wore black, hooded robes, tied around the waist with a single white sash. While they always wore skull-shaped half-masks in public, they would show their faces and walk barefoot when within their temples. Any exposed skin would be concealed with ash. When venturing out in the Realms, they wore the finest armor underneath their hooded cloaks.
The various branches of Myrkulyte temples got along with one another quite well, as no individual had enough power to hold it over their fellow faithful.
While Myrkul himself ascended to godhood from a mortal life eons ago, he divinity was first encountered by his future initiates when a speak with dead spell was cast upon the head priest of some ancient temple. The Lord of the Dead conveyed his dogma through the vessel of the body.
After the death of Myrkul in the Time of Troubles, his divine domain was transferred by Ao to the newly-ascended Cyric, or "Cyruk" as he was known to Myrkulytes. The stoic and largely-emotionless priests were unfazed by this change, and they offered no organized resistance or any emotional reaction. A decade later when Cyric was defeated by Kelemvor in the City of Strife, the transition of worship from the Myrkulyte-Cyricists to the new god of the dead was just as smooth of a transition. While some remnant Myrkul's energy was transferred into the nearby artifact, the Crown of Thorns, for all intents and purposes, the church of Myrkul was considered dead by the people of Faerûn.
|“||"(They were) merely changing the name on the letterhead and putting a purple sunburst around the skull outside the temples."||”|
|— Zeboaster "the Still Alive-For Now", on the conversion of Myrkulytes to Cyricists|
However, that which was dead could not truly die. After Myrkul's death, a temple in his name was constructed beneath the Sea of Swords, in the area where Midnight cast away the brown miasma that was released upon the destruction of the deity's avatar.
After the Second Sundering Myrkul was restored as the Reaper,the god of death in service of Kelemvor, the god of the dead. There were few actual temples of Myrkul in the late 15th century, but nearly every human cemetery or mausoleum was engraved with Myrkul's holy symbol.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), p. 125. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), p. 126. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 35. ISBN 978-0786965809.
- ↑ Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), p. 127. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- ↑ Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), p. 128. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 264. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd (1996). Volo's Guide to All Things Magical. (TSR, Inc), p. 101. ISBN 0-7869-0446-1.
- ↑ Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 21. ISBN 978-0786965809.