Kelemvor (pronounced: /ˈkɛlɛmvɔːr/ KELL-em-vor), formerly Kelemvor Lyonsbane, also known as the Lord of the Dead and Judge of the Damned, was the god of death and the dead, and master of the Crystal Spire in the Fugue Plane. In his mortal days, Kelemvor was a skilled mercenary, with the heart of a noble paladin, concealed under rude manners and thwarted by his mysterious family curse.
Fair yet cold, Kelemvor was the god of death and the dead—the most recent deity to hold this position, following in the footsteps of Jergal, Myrkul, and Cyric. Unlike these other deities, whose rule as gods of the dead made the afterlife an uncertain and fearful thing, Kelemvor promoted that death was a natural part of life and should not be feared as long as it was understood. As a result of his deep respect for life and death, he held the undead in the uttermost contempt.
As mortals, Kelemvor and Midnight were lovers, but it is unlikely this was maintained after Midnight's ascension to take Mystra's place as they were afterwards both deities with responsibilities. Kelemvor's greatest enemy was Cyric, but he also fiercely opposed the machinations of Velsharoon, the necromancer god who animated the dead into undead and used them for unjust and evil deeds, and thus stood against everything Kelemvor worked for, and Talona, for the unnatural deaths caused by her diseases. This also made him an ally of Lathander the Morninglord, who also opposed undeath. Kelemvor maintained practical alliances with good- and neutral-aligned gods of death in other pantheons: Sehanine Moonbow primarily and formerly Urogalan and Osiris as well. Kelemvor was served by the original deity of death, the mysterious, fatalistic, and pragmatic Jergal, who kept records of the final disposition of spirits of the deceased.
The death clergy, as they were known, had many duties; most involved tending to the last wishes of the dying and providing burial services to those who died alone. They also set out to cure diseases and defend people from monsters so that folk did not die before their time. Their final and arguably most important task was the destruction of undeath in all its various forms as it was an affront to Kelemvor. Elite priests of Kelemvor were known as Doomguides. Servants of Kelemvor were usually clad in somber gray vestments and brandished hand-and-a-half swords, or bastard swords.
Main article: Category:Temples to Kelemvor
Before his ascension to godhood Kelemvor was a human fighter named Kelemvor Lyonsbane, who was best known for his association with the adventurers Adon, Cyric, and Midnight, the latter two of which also later became deities. Inwardly sensitive and kindhearted, Kelemvor nonetheless exhibited a gruff and dark-mooded exterior as a way of coping with the unusual curse that had befallen his family.
Kelemvor was born to Kendrel Lyonsbane and Cyndril Lyonsbane. Kelemvor was the youngest child, being a decade younger than his other siblings. Cyndril died giving birth to Kelemvor, for which Kendrel would later blame his son. Even without this burden of guilt on his shoulders, life was not easy for Kelemvor, who was constantly expected to meet the high standards set by both his father, a crippled war veteran and military advisor, and elder brothers, who, by the time Kelemvor was eight, were already forging their own legends.
Contrary to his father's desires, however, Kelemvor demonstrated an affinity for artistic pursuits and beauty, developing a deep fondness for his sensitive teacher, Tannith. When Kelemvor was ten his father decided he had tolerated Kelemvor's inaction long enough, deciding to take full responsibility for Kelemvor's education so as to ensure he followed the martial path chosen for him. Kendrel discharged Tannith and beat her senseless along with a group of friends, leaving her for dead. When Kelemvor learned of this weeks later, hatred for his father welled up inside him and would later haunt him.
This righteous fury was channeled by the young boy into martial skill, making him a deadly warrior—much to the delight of his father, who failed to recognize the source of Kelemvor's power. It would not be long before Kendrel came to realize the truth, however. When Kelemvor was thirteen he met a beautiful girl two years his senior named Lilianna. Filled with joy and a love for Kelemvor, she began to melt the younger boy's cool exterior, reminding him of his first crush Tannith. When Kendrel discovered this affair he sought once again to end what he considered a distraction to Kelemvor's education and assaulted Lilianna, beating her. When Kelemvor came upon them he leapt to Lilianna's defense but was knocked aside.
The Lyonsbane curse
As Kelemvor rose to his feet the hidden curse within him manifested, transforming him into an adult panther. In his new form, he tore his father apart as well as the two guards that leapt to the man's defense. Lilianna, once she realized the terrifying beast still had Kelemvor's mind and soul, helped her lover escape from Lyonsbane Keep and into the woodlands surrounding it, where he dwelled for some time, coming to terms with his new form.
After the death of his father, Kelemvor wandered the woods outside Lyonsbane Keep, shifting back and forth between human and panther form. Though at first he had been able to control himself, Kelemvor soon found himself, even in his human form, becoming little more than a savage beast. Six months passed before Kelemvor regained control of his mind, returning to human form with full possession of his senses. It was shortly after this that Burne Lyonsbane, Kelemvor's uncle, discovered Kelemvor, for whom he'd been searching. However, unlike Kendrel, Burne was understanding of Kelemvor's sensitive side and had pitied his nephew throughout the years. When he and his adventurer companions found Kelemvor they took the young man in and explained to him the nature of his family's curse.
The curse of the Lyonsbanes had been passed down for generations within Kelemvor's family and had its roots in the actions of the greedy mercenary Kyle Lyonsbane, who'd abandoned his wounded companion, a sorceress, on the battlefield to die so that he could plunder an enemy's stronghold. As vengeance, the sorceress cursed Kyle and his family, transforming them into a strange variety of werepanther, who would transform into their beastly form if ever they did something purely for profit. However, over time, the curse failed: it would only affect some, but not all, of Kyle's descendants, and became reversed. By the time, five generations later, Kelemvor was born, the curse made it impossible for any Lyonsbane to perform an act without asking for a reward, lest they transform into the beast.
The result was a long line of mercenaries in the Lyonsbane family, and as family members grew old it become more dangerous for those who lived around them, since the patriarchs could no longer remember if a reward had been offered or not. Thus it became the responsibility of every Lyonsbane to slay their father when they reached the age of fifty.
Life as a mercenary
Kelemvor, with the help of his uncle, managed to adjust to the curse that he had regrettably inherited and joined Burne's company to become yet another sellsword. For three years, Kelemvor was able to keep his bestial side under control, and though forced into a path he had not chosen for himself and had never wanted, became fond of Burne and his other companions. Still, Kelemvor longed for and dreamed of the life he could have had were it not for his curse and the cruelty of his father.
Upon his eighteenth birthday, however, all of Kelemvor's new life came crashing down around him. In an ambush, Burne's party was slaughtered to a man by Kelemvor's eldest brother Guntharr. Filled with rage for his uncle's death, Kelemvor awoke the beast within him again and tore both Guntharr and his companions to pieces except those who managed to flee. Horrified and disheartened, Kelemvor fled once again, though he eventually returned to the mercenary lifestyle.
More bitter than ever, Kelemvor became resentful of the emptiness in his involuntary career as a sellsword and of the incompetent superiors who hired him. Though Kelemvor could have taken a leadership position for himself, he never did, haunted by memories of his father's corruption by power. Still, Kelemvor dreamed of a day when he could perform heroic deeds free from the curse, becoming a true hero as in those stories he had read when he was a child in the Lyonsbane castle.
After a time, Kelemvor left his employers behind, pulled by an unexplainable urge to search for something, a prize to give his life meaning but whose form escaped him. It was shortly after this, that he met up with Midnight and Adon of Sune. During the events of the Time of Troubles of the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, the curse was removed by the god of strife, Bane. Together with Midnight and Adon he recovered the lost Tablets of Fate, bringing them to Waterdeep, to return them to Ao.
In a final confrontation with Myrkul on top of Blackstaff Tower, Kelemvor was killed by a still-mortal Cyric, wielding the sword Godsbane. Cyric would later go on to become god of death in place of Myrkul, and Midnight became the new goddess of magic, Mystra. However, Kelemvor's existence was not ended then and Godsbane, which was actually the god Mask in disguise, siphoned away Kelemvor's eternal spirit, hiding it from the new Lord of Death. For ten years, Kelemvor's spirit lived in this pocket plane, while Cyric searched for him, bent on destroying his former companion for good.
Revolt against Cyric
Ten years after the Time of Troubles, after Cyric murdered Bhaal and ascended to godhood, the first thing he wanted to accomplish was to have Kelemvor's soul so that he could gain an advantage over the new Mystra, his most hated rival, and whose portfolio over magic he coveted. However, for ten years, Cyric and his church were unable to find Kelemvor's soul, every divination and spell they tried yielded nothing. Cyric suspected that there were traitors within his own church who fostered Kelemvor's soul. He later launched the Second Banedeath in 1368 DR, unleashing his Inquisition on Zhentil Keep, Yûlash, Darkhold, Teshwave, and the Citadel of the Raven to cleanse all Zhent holdings of non-Cyricist priests. Cyric also released Kezef the Chaos Hound from Pandemonium, and commanded it to trace Kelemvor's soul. Kezef ended up being trapped again by the God of Thieves.
Kelemvor's soul, was absorbed into Cyric's sentient sword, Godsbane, in the moment he was killed on top of Blackstaff Tower. The sword was actually Mask, the God of Thieves in disguise, who planned to bring about Cyric's downfall and gain Cyric's portfolio over lies. Mask used Kelemvor's soul to gain the cooperation of Mystra, all the while planning a revolt in the City of Death against Cyric. With the help of Mystra, Torm, Oghma, and Cyric's own high priest Fzoul Chembryl (whose loyalty lay with the dead Bane), great chaos was caused in two of Cyric's most important bases of faith: Zhentil Keep and the City of Death. A great number of Cyric's followers lost their faith, thus greatly weakening Cyric himself. Without the will to control the City of Death, dead spirits were freed and roamed about the City. In addition, Cyric's nightmare was freed from Dendar the Night Serpent, and the dream found Cyric, causing him to think that Kelemvor had somehow returned to life and to seek revenge. At that moment, Cyric, though a Greater Power, lost his mind and crushed his sword, which freed Kelemvor, and made his nightmare come true. The two fought, a dead soul against a god. Cyric's fear, indecision, and madness became his defeat, and Kelemvor finally managed to overthrow Cyric's rule in the City. By the wish of all dead spirits and Denizens in the Gray Wastes, in 1368 DR Kelemvor became the new God of Death.
To be the Lord of the Dead is to be the judgment of the departed souls. Being the new Lord Death, Kelemvor wished to clear all the corruptions in the Realms of Death brought by former Lords of Death. He reshaped the Bone Castle, a twisted citadel in the Gray Wastes where Jergal, Myrkul, and Cyric had all ruled from, into the transparent Crystal Spire, its translucency representing that no more should Death be a frightening mystery. While faithful souls would be claimed by their respective deities, faithless souls and those with a false faith that his or her god did not want, were judged before the God of Death. Former Gods of Death would decide whether they were the Faithless or the False. Either way, in the hands of Myrkul or Cyric, these souls eventually ended up being eternally tortured.
Kelemvor, however, was more lenient on those Faithless and False who were virtuous and honorable in life, while the ones who were cowardly or capricious were severely punished. Those souls judged as noble were sent to the then merrier and heaven-like parts in the City of Death, such as the Singing City or Pax Cloister, while for thieves and cowards there were hell-like parts of the City such as the Acid Swamps.
As a result, honorable and brave mortals no longer feared death, and recklessly threw their lives away, trusting in Kelemvor's judgment rather than in benevolent gods. The cowardly and crafty mortals became too fearful to do much, lest they die and find themselves before Kelemvor. This, in combination with Mystra's unjust granting of magic, favoring only those who were good, brought unintentional imbalance and robbed the other deities of potential worshipers. Being exposed by Cyric, Kelemvor and Mystra were accused by the Circle of Greater Gods of being guilty of "Incompetence by Humanity".
Kelemvor wondered how he could judge the damned, when he himself failed his own personal judgment. He gradually came to realize that there was nothing human in being a god. To correct his mistakes, great changes were undergone in his realm, as well as in himself. The City of the Dead was changed to a gray world, not truly light, not totally dark, simply dull gray. Gone was the good and evil in the City, only indifference and silence remained. The once diamond-like Crystal Spire was also smoked the color of topaz.[note 1] Kelemvor also rid himself of all signs of humanity in order to properly fulfill his duties, which meant replacing the warrior-like human he used to assume with a darkly robed figure, his raven black hair turned to silver, his eyes became pupiless, his appearance aged, his armor tattered and black, and he donned a silver death mask.
He then conducted the Re-evaluation, where all souls in the City were to be judged according to new criteria, then be sentenced to new places in the City. Souls being judged would not find torture, but neither would they find joy. They would exist with souls ethically similar to themselves, and it would be up to the inhabitants to make their own lives in the same manner as in the living world.
During the process, Adon (Kelemvor and Mystra's mutual friend, as well the patriarch of Mystra's new church) was driven mad by Cyric's trickery, losing his faith in Mystra, and had died a faithless soul. Mystra came to Kelemvor and asked for Adon's soul, which Kelemvor steadfastly refused since Adon was now one of the Faithless, or perhaps even the False. This, along with Kelemvor's loss of passion, eventually caused the breaking up of their relationship.
- The novel Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad states that Kelemvor also replaced the Wall of the Faithless with a mirrored wall that showed the false and the faithless their reflections in such a way as to reveal the follies and life choices that led them to be sent to his realm. However, the more recent Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide sourcebook still describes faithless souls being mortared into the Wall for eternity. As of its November 2020 errata, the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide no longer mentions the Wall of the Faithless.
- Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 33. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 151. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Colin McComb (1996). On Hallowed Ground. Edited by Ray Vallese. (TSR, Inc), p. 169. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
- Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), p. 84. ISBN 978-0786903849.
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- Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 188. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
- Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), pp. 84–86. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 84. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
- Logan Bonner (August, 2009). “Domains in Eberron and the Forgotten Realms”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #378 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 32.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 135, 151. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 75, 80. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 294. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins, James Wyatt (2014). Dungeon Master's Guide 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0786965622.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, Robert J. Schwalb, Adam Lee, Christopher Perkins, Matt Sernett (November 2017). Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-7869-6612-7.
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 243. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc), pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- Richard Lee Byers (April 2007). Unclean. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 72. ISBN 978-0-7869-4258-9.
- Ed Greenwood, et al (1989). Hall of Heroes. (TSR, Inc), p. 35. ISBN 0-88038-711-4.
- Ed Greenwood, et al (1989). Hall of Heroes. (TSR, Inc), pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-88038-711-4.
- Ed Greenwood, et al (1989). Hall of Heroes. (TSR, Inc), p. 36. ISBN 0-88038-711-4.
- James Lowder (August 1993). Prince of Lies. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 1-56076-626-3.
- Troy Denning (February 1998). Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-0724-X.
Azuth • Bane • Bhaal • Chauntea • Cyric • Gond • Helm • Ilmater • Kelemvor • Kossuth • Lathander • Loviatar • Mask • Mielikki • Myrkul • Mystra (Midnight) • Oghma • Selûne • Shar • Shaundakul • Silvanus • Sune • Talos • Tempus • Torm • Tymora • Tyr • Umberlee • Waukeen
Akadi • Auril • Beshaba • Deneir • Eldath • Finder Wyvernspur • Garagos • Gargauth • Grumbar • Gwaeron Windstrom • Hoar • Istishia • Iyachtu Xvim • Jergal • Lliira • Lurue • Malar • Milil • Nobanion • The Red Knight • Savras • Sharess • Shiallia • Siamorphe • Talona • Tiamat • Ubtao • Ulutiu • Valkur • Velsharoon
Akadi | Amaunator | Asmodeus | Auril | Azuth | Bane | Beshaba | Bhaal | Chauntea | Cyric | Deneir | Eldath | Gond | Grumbar | Gwaeron | Helm | Hoar | Ilmater | Istishia | Jergal | Kelemvor | Kossuth | Lathander | Leira | Lliira | Loviatar | Malar | Mask | Mielikki | Milil | Myrkul | Mystra | Oghma | Red Knight | Savras | Selûne | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talona | Talos | Tempus | Torm | Tymora | Tyr | Umberlee | Valkur | Waukeen
Abbathor | Berronar Truesilver | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Deep Duerra | Dugmaren Brightmantle | Dumathoin | Gorm Gulthyn | Haela Brightaxe | Laduguer | Marthammor Duin | Moradin | Sharindlar | Vergadain
Aerdrie Faenya | Angharradh | Corellon | Deep Sashelas | Erevan | Fenmarel Mestarine | Hanali Celanil | Labelas Enoreth | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Shevarash | Solonor Thelandira
The Dark Seldarine
Eilistraee | Kiaransalee | Lolth | Selvetarm | Vhaeraun
Arvoreen | Brandobaris | Cyrrollalee | Sheela Peryroyl | Urogalan | Yondalla
Lords of the Golden Hills
Baervan Wildwanderer | Baravar Cloakshadow | Callarduran Smoothhands | Flandal Steelskin | Gaerdal Ironhand | Garl Glittergold | Nebelun | Segojan Earthcaller | Urdlen
Bahgtru | Gruumsh | Ilneval | Luthic | Shargaas | Yurtrus
Anhur | Bast | Geb | Hathor | Horus | Isis | Nephthys | Osiris | Re | Sebek | Set | Thoth
Other gods of Faerûn
Bahamut | Enlil | Finder Wyvernspur | Ghaunadaur | Gilgeam | Lurue | Moander | Nobanion | Raven Queen | Tiamat
Greater Gods of Faerûn
Amaunator | Asmodeus | Bane | Chauntea | Corellon | Cyric | Ghaunadaur | Gruumsh | Kelemvor | Lolth | Moradin | Oghma | Selûne | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Tempus | Torm
Gods of Faerûn
Angharradh | Auril | Bahamut | Berronar Truesilver | Beshaba | Garl Glittergold | Gond | Ilmater | Loviatar | Luthic | Malar | Mielikki | Sheela Peryroyl | Sseth | Talona | Tiamat | Tymora | Umberlee | Waukeen | Zehir
Exarchs of Faerûn
Abbathor | Arvoreen | Baervan Wildwanderer | Bahgtru | Baravar Cloakshadow | Brandobaris | Callarduran Smoothhands | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Cyrrollalee | Deep Sashelas | Dugmaren Brightmantle | Erevan Ilesere | Fenmarel Mestarine | Fzoul Chembryl | Garagos | Hoar | Hruggek | Jergal | Labelas Enoreth | Lliira | Maglubiyet | Malar | Marthammor Duin | Milil | Obould | Red Knight | Sharess | Shargaas | Shevarash | Shiallia | Siamorphe | Solonor Thelandira | Thard Harr | Uthgar | Valkur | Vaprak | Vergadain
Greater Deities of Faerûn
Angharradh | Bane | Chauntea | Corellon Larethian | Cyric | Garl Glittergold | Gruumsh | Horus-Re | Kelemvor | Lathander | Moradin | Mystra | Oghma | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talos | Tempus | Tyr | Yondalla
Intermediate Deities of Faerûn
Abbathor | Arvoreen | Baervan Wildwanderer | Berronar Truesilver | Beshaba | Callarduran Smoothhands | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Cyrrollalee | Deep Duerra | Deep Sashelas | Dumathoin | Erevan Ilesere | Flandal Steelskin | Gond | Hanali Celanil | Helm | Ilmater | Isis | Labelas Enoreth | Laduguer | Lolth | Mask | Mielikki | Nephthys | Osiris | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Segojan Earthcaller | Selûne | Set | Sharindlar | Sheela Peryroyl | Solonor Thelandira | Thoth | Tymora | Umberlee | Urdlen | Vergadain
Major Deities of Faerûn
Angharradh | Bane | Bhaal | Chauntea | Corellon Larethian | Garl Glittergold | Gruumsh | Horus-Re | Lathander | Moradin | Myrkul | Mystra | Oghma | Shar | Silvanus | Sune | Talos | Tempus | Tyr | Yondalla
Other Deities of Faerûn
Auppenser | Abbathor | Arvoreen | Auril | Baervan Wildwanderer | Berronar Truesilver | Beshaba | Callarduran Smoothhands | Clangeddin Silverbeard | Cyrrollalee | Deep Duerra | Deep Sashelas | Dumathoin | Erevan Ilesere | Flandal Steelskin | Gond | Hanali Celanil | Helm | Ilmater | Isis | Labelas Enoreth | Laduguer | Lolth | Mask | Mielikki | Nephthys | Osiris | Rillifane Rallathil | Sehanine Moonbow | Segojan Earthcaller | Selûne | Set | Sharindlar | Sheela Peryroyl | Solonor Thelandira | Thoth | Tymora | Umberlee | Urdlen | Vergadain