The Dark God Reformed was a temple and walled compound dedicated to Cyric in Voonlar. In the days before the supposed death of Bane, the Black Hand, it was a Banite temple named The Dark Lord's Hand, and it had other names under previous leaders.
Voonlar was a trading town and farming community located in the southwest corner of the Moonsea region of north Faerûn. The temple was located just off of the North Ride across from the Bounty of the Goddess and was accessed by two short lanes, one from the North Ride and one from Runstal's Ride. A short distance down the North Ride to the southwest was the Locktower, headquarters of the local Bron (sheriff).
The spire atop the temple's three-story entry tower rose up sharply for another 80 feet (24 meters) to make it the tallest structure in Voonlar and the surrounding countryside. As such, its needle tip was often struck by lightning, and the rest of the structure was in similar shape. The walls of the Dark God Reformed were made of black stone, and many were sagging, leaning, or bulging. Stone buttresses were used liberally around the edifice to keep the poorly constructed walls from collapsing. Behind the massive tower was the main sanctuary, called the Hallowed Hall. Flanking it on either side and connected through galleries were priest apartments, guest rooms, side chapels, robing rooms, offices, and baths and privies. Behind the Hallowed Hall to the east was a connected one-story dining hall with kitchens and pantries.
As of the early 1370s DR, battlements were slowly being added to the main temple building around the top floor, but only the north and east sides had been completed in a construction project begun years before. The defenses consisted of a stone pathway that hugged the wall until it came to a buttress and then curved around the buttress and back to the main wall. Patrols on the walkway were shielded by a crenelated wall. Many pillars of dubious sturdiness supported this elevated walkway and an occasional stairway to the courtyard.
The meager grounds around the temple proper were completely paved by cobblestone, with no trees, bushes, or grass to be seen. A few paces away were the double walls that surrounded the entire compound in a giant ellipse, also made of black stone. There were two gates built into the walls. The main gate faced southwest and was crafted (from black stone again) in the shape of a huge open mouth with bared fangs. When the heavy metal doors inside the mouth where open, they allowed access to the lanes leading to the North Ride and Runstal's Ride. The other gate was on the north side, and it was plain and functional, allowing access to a long, narrow field used for growing food, called the Blackrukth. On either side of the north gate, set into the inner wall of the perimeter, were stone kennels for housing a pack of war dogs.
The Hallowed Hall was a cavernous, cold, and drafty sanctuary with a perpetually leaking roof. When a storm hit, cascades of water would fall 70 feet (21 meters) to splash on the benches or the uneven flagstone floor, making the tilting tiles even more treacherous to navigate. Support pillars incised with prayers to Cyric were added on either side of the central aisle after the second time the roof collapsed under heavy snows.
After walking down the central aisle, supplicants came to seven steps leading up to the dais crowned by a massive stone altar about the size of a wagon and overhung by a carved Dark Sun symbol suspended by heavy chains from a roof beam. Behind the dais, the wall was decorated with tall tapestries that concealed a doorway to a gallery that connected down a staircase to the wing that contained the dining hall.
The altar itself was called the Hand of the Dark One, since it was first consecrated by Bane or his avatar. It was a smooth, rectangular block of black stone that, during ceremonies, was strewn with sacrifices and items used in rituals. Two braziers about six feet (two meters) tall stood on either side. Under Cyric's Dark Sun, any item consecrated to another deity that touched the altar would cause flames to leap up, fanned by unearthly shrieks. The priests tried to prevent this from happening by vetting items being sacrificed, but they were not always successful.
The room farthest east in the relatively new north wing was known locally as the End Pantry. It was built in a low-lying area and was often flooded with water ankle deep. In the warmer, wetter months, the cooks made the best of a bad situation and stocked the pool with eels that they could harvest for the dinner table. For the unfortunate servant or supplicant that displeased the church leadership, this room doubled as a dungeon cell where prisoners suffered in the dark and dank, sometimes in the company of hungry eels.
Circa 1372 DR, the Dark God Reformed was governed by a Dark Patriarch, Gormstadd the Rerisen, and his two Dark Hands, Meirgin "Daggers" Windtalon and Bastabar Yulgont. Together they were referred to within the church as the "Exalted". Collectively, the priests from the Dark Patriarch down to the Fingers of Cyric were called the "Dark Blessed".
The primary activity around the Dark God Reformed seemed to be repairing the decaying temple and construction of the battlements. These projects suffered from delays and poor workmanship for various reasons, mostly self-inflicted. Gormstadd insisted that only devout Cyricists be allowed inside the temple proper, and the better skilled workers were busy elsewhere due to the surging popularity of the Dark Sun in the region. Also, the building committee consisted of the Exalted, and there was an intense rivalry and hatred between the two Dark Hands, carefully cultivated by Gormstadd to prevent them from ever joining forces to oppose him. This resulted in endless debates and little progress. One such debate was over whether to expand to the north into the Blackrukth and incur the loss of arable land and the added expense of extending the wall or to buy out nearby land in private hands either to bully them into selling or to take a more politically favorable route and offer to pay for their relocation.
The grounds within the walls were kept completely free of plant life by either lay persons or clergy who did something disgraceful in the eyes of the leadership. They debased themselves by crawling on hands and knees or their bellies and picked anything green that managed to find purchase between the cobblestones. Debtors and those who needed to atone for a sin were often pressed into working on the battlements.
During services in the Hallowed Hall, when it came time for worshipers to place offerings or sacrifices on the altar, it was customary for the attending priests to wrap a chain around each supplicant who approached the Hand of the Dark One and to maintain a hold on the ends of the chain as they climbed the seven steps. Under their watchful eye, if anyone approaching the altar stone attempted to defile it (usually by spitting) or to remove any of the offerings already in place, the attendants would yank on the chains and pull the offender down and away from the sacred relic.
The first line of defense was the double wall—two concentric oval-shaped rings of black stone set about six feet (two meters) apart and topped with a bird's nest of haphazardly angled black metal spikes. The wall was weakest on the east side, where it began to sink into the marshy soil. The ground between the walls was divided into four quarters by portcullises, and each quarter was patrolled by a particularly big (about man-sized), fast, and vicious war dog. These four dogs were dubbed the "Mad Black Hounds" by the people of Voonlar, and they were kenneled at the north gate but separately from the other dogs. The portcullises could be raised by levers inside the inner wall when an intruder was spotted, allowing all the Mad Black Hounds to converge on the target.
The main doors, located inside the mouth of the fanged gate sculpture, were made from black metal covered with spikes and secured by chains that crisscrossed the surface. Small sliding plates in the doors allowed the guards to thrust spears at unwelcome callers.
The barren courtyard provided no cover from attacks coming from the windows of the temple, unless there happened to be a wagon or wheelbarrow present. Judging by other such temples that were first dedicated to Bane and then reconsecrated to Cyric, the Dark God Reformed had enchantments placed on it that enhanced the spells of clergy within its walls, degraded the spells of non-Cyricist spellcasters, and revealed intruders. There was no known evidence of this, but certain Harpers believed it to be true.
At various strategic locations within the temple, helmed horrors stood vigil. Named "Silent Watchers" by the Dark Blessed, their trigger conditions and command words were closely guarded secrets. These dormant but watchful statues were larger than man-sized, extremely tough, incredibly strong, ponderously slow, and could breathe poison gas.
Reports from raiders who made it into the Hallowed Hall asserted that some of the clergy could command beams of various magical effects to shoot out from the eyes of the skull on the Dark Sun and the points of its rays—and possibly the altar and other locations inside the sanctuary as well. The method of command seemed to be through magical arm bands worn by the more senior clergy. How the symbol of Cyric was able to produce these different effects and attacks was a mystery, but one witness, Hastaltun of Athkatla, posed the hypothesis that a number of wands were part of the carving and could be aimed and activated from below via the armbands. Another adventurer in the same group, Halver Durstread, swore that a beholder or death tyrant was captured inside the carving and forced by the clergy to use its powers at their command.
The battlements that were perpetually under construction or repair were also a line of defense. The merlons were topped with the same black metal spikes as the perimeter wall, but the elevated walkway was mostly used for inspecting and repairing the roof and as a platform for threatening laity with a deadly fall unless they performed some loathsome task.
The temple was patrolled by the Fingers of Cyric—sixteen fighters who were mostly imported from larger temples to replace those lost while defending the Dark God Reformed—a well-trained band that wore plate mail and carried shields. They were skilled with the short bow and longsword and enjoyed taking six of their war dogs with them whenever sent outside on temple business. Their brutish and intimidating behavior, including acts of arson perpetrated on carts, businesses, and even homes, earned them a deep fear and hatred by the local populace.
One of the most significant events in the history of the temple occurred sometime after the First battle of Shadowdale in either 1356 or 1357 DR when the Knights of Myth Drannor raided and sacked what was then called The Dark Lord's Hand. Over 400 drow, Zhents, and Banites were captured, dealing a significant blow to the schemes of Zhentil Keep. Gormstadd took over the leadership about this time, rebuilt the temple, and even survived the apparent death of his god Bane and the conversion to worshiping the upstart Cyric.
The roof of the Hallowed Hall was a perpetual source of frustration, embarrassment, and occasionally death. As previously stated, it leaked regularly, and it collapsed twice under the weight of snow until it was shored up with pillars. In the early 1370s DR, workers trying to repair the roof fell to their deaths on at least four occasions. In an ironic twist, there was a young woman who, rumor had it, displeased the Exalted in some manner and was laid out in chains on the roof to die in the sun while carrion birds picked at her flesh. So many birds were attracted to the corpse that the extra weight caused that section of the roof to fall directly onto some visiting clergy during a ritual.
Rumors & LegendsEdit
The Mad Black Hounds guarding the temple perimeter were the subject of many stories around Voonlar, mostly about various individuals being devoured when they attempted some ill-advised intrusion, from silly prank to full-on attack. Any mysterious disappearances around town were likely attributed to becoming food for the pony-sized dogs.
It was a commonly held belief in Voonlar that the altar stone (the Hand of the Dark One) in the Hallowed Hall sealed a mausoleum of treasure and the bones of all the priests who served the temple in the past and that this massive stone could be moved by a joint effort of many strong people to reveal the treasure and/or to release undead guardians that would fight against intruders. Lending credence to this notion were eye-witness reports from lay persons who served in the temple that pry-bars and yokes were handy at the back of the temple near the tapestries.
A story about one Cyricist priest using the magical beams from the Dark Sun emblem above the altar against a fellow priest was likely true. Witnesses reported some sort of intense mental battle for control of the powers embedded in the large carving.
Many a priest of the Dark God Reformed were notorious around Voonlar, especially the Fingers of Cyric, who would take their war dogs out on official business and terrorize any locals whom they felt deserved the treatment or just got in their way. Their names have been lost to history, but the known inhabitants of the Dark God Reformed were:
- Bastabar Yulgont: Dark Hand; tutor of the novices; bitter and jealous ex-warrior.
- Gormstadd the Rerisen: Dark Patriarch, Strifeleader; cruel and scheming high priest that trusted no one.
- Meirgin "Daggers" Windtalon: Dark Hand; scribe and record-keeper; de facto leader; manipulative.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 87. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. p. 7. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #5: The Moods of Voonlar. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-09.
- ↑ John Terra (February 1995). The Moonsea (Reference Guide). (TSR, Inc), p. 22. ISBN 978-0786900923.
- ↑ John Terra (Feburary 1995). The Moonsea (Player's Guide). (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 978-0786900923.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. p. 8. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #6: Local Faith. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-13.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 161–162. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 12–13. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #10: The Dark God Reformed. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-10-26.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. p. 3. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #3: The Bron's Deputies. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 13.9 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 14–15. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #12: In the House of Darkness. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2017-01-28.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. p. 19. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #15: Serving the Dark Sun. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-10-28.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 13–14. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #11: Into the Dark Sun's Embrace. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-20.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 15–16. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, et al (1989). Hall of Heroes. (TSR, Inc), p. 107. ISBN 0-88038-711-4.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 16–17. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #13: A Dark Heart to Lead Voonlar. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-10-24.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 20–21. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Ed Greenwood (2001-04-04). Part #16: The Dark Blessed. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2017-02-02.