Tales of the Bloodstone Lands
The Black Lord, the Black Hand, the Lord of Darkness
Symbol: Green rays squeezed forth from a black fist
Home Plane: The Barrens of Doom and Despair
Alignment: Lawful evil
Portfolio: Strife, hatred, tyranny, fear
Cleric Alignments: LN, LE, NE
Favored Weapon: The black hand of Bane [a black gauntlet] (morningstar)
Bane (BAIN), one of the Dark Gods, is the ultimate tyrant and a thoroughly evil and malicious being who revels in hatred and strife and was worshiped by those who in turn enjoyed such wickedness. From his throne in the Black Bastion, he rules over select parts of Faerun through his clergy. In religious art, he is depicted as a looming, brooding black hand ready to crush the world in its palm, as an empty black throne, or as a shadowy, vaguely human-shaped figure garbed in garments of black streaked with red sitting on a throne of skulls. The one constant in these depictions is a jewel-encrusted gauntlet streaked with blood.
While Bane hates most of the Faerunian pantheon, in particular he hates Mystra and dreams of torturing her and consuming her power. He devotes much research to trying to learn ways in which other gods have in the past subsumed the powers of rival gods whom they destroyed, for Bane desired above all to gain true supreme power by acquiring governance over all magic. This may be the underlying reason that Bane plotted with Myrkul to steal the Tablets of Fate from Ao, precipitating the Fall of the Gods. The Black Lord was destroyed in conflict with Torm during the Time of Troubles, and his portfolio was given to the once-mortal Cyric by Ao, along with the portfolios of Myrkul and Bhaal. Now reborn, Bane has subsumed the Baneson’s church and taken back much of what Cyric stole from him. In life, he commanded Bhaal and Iyachtu Xvim, his son, though Xvim performed his designated tasks only reluctantly, as he held no love for his father. Loviatar and Talona served Bane indirectly by serving Bhaal.
Iyachtu Xvim, the Godson, is said to be the result of a union between the Black Lord and a greater or a true tanar’ri, and thus the blood of Bane runs through his veins. (Another tale says he is the spawn of the Lord of Darkness and a corrupted paladin.) Prior to the Time of Troubles, Xvim stalked the Realms for many years, enacting his father’s will. With his father’s death and Cyric’s partial defeat, the Cruel Master moved to seize his hated father’s black throne. However, by rebuilding his father’s church and portfolio, Xvim betrayed himself. Bane burst forth reborn from the godson’s own body.
Although much of Bane’s power was absorbed by Cyric, the Prince of Lies, when the Black Lord was destroyed by Torm, the Lord of Duty, some of it passed on to Iyachtu Xvim, imprisoned deep beneath Zhentil Keep. As is the case with Myrkul, a small fraction of Bane’s essence remains in the Realms, but unlike the deity of the dead, Bane’s personality was not captured in an artifact. Instead, fragments of his personality were scattered among his 25 or more surviving Baneliches (clerical liches of Bane). In centuries past, the Black Lord had transformed over 35 living High Imperceptors at the end of their tenure into undead “Mouths of Bane” – Baneliches. In the wake of the Godswar, each Banelich believed itself to be the reincarnated form of Bane, with the expected corresponding megalomaniacal plans for conquering Faerun. When he returned, Bane forced his Baneliches to war, until only the five most powerful of them remained. These “Fingers of Bane” now enforce the Tyrant’s will throughout the realms.
Bane is the most widely known and feared evil god of the Realms. Banites were generally cruel folk who enjoyed exercising power over others within the security of a rigid hierarchy and rules. While Bane was dead, his church lived on, though most of its members joined the churches of Cyric, Iyachtu Xvim, or even Gargauth, Talos, or Talona since the remaining Banites are not, as of 1369 DR, receiving spells or abilities from Bane or from Cyric (unless they convert directly to his worship—at which point they are no longer Banites). Now that Bane has returned, former Banites flock back to their Lord and Master, often being required to perform dangerous and often-lethal penances.
The church of Bane was overrun with wizards, especially near Zhentil Keep. The presence of so many wizards as clergy members and the influence of the ambitious Fzoul Chembryl led to a schism in the church long before the Time of Troubles. This created a fierce internal rivalry within the church between the Orthodox (mostly clerical) and Transformed (more heavily wizardly) factions of the church.
Bane’s church underwent several rapid changes after the death of its deity during the Time of Troubles. In the immediate aftermath of the Time of Troubles, the rift between Orthodox and Transformed Banites worsened. Cyric assumed Bane’s portfolio, continued to grant Banite priests spells, and tried to convert Bane’s faithful to direct worship of him. Orthodox Banites held that Cyric was merely a new form of Bane, expanded to take in the powers of Myrkul and Bhaal to show the growing power of evil. Transformed Banites instead argued that Bane was dead and Cyric had taken his mantle and position as deity of strife. The “office” of Bane that Cyric held was the power they worshiped. Along with almost all former Bhaal-worshipers and the vast majority of former Myrkulytes, these Banite factions formed the strong base of Cyric’s faith.
There remained scattered sects of hard-core ultra-orthodox Bane worshipers, such as the Risen Cult of Bane in the Moonshaes, who believed that Bane was still alive and that Cyric, whom they referred to as the Pretender, was a usurper who would be punished in the future along with all his faithless followers. Little did these stubborn, misguided fools realize that the Prince of Lies was granting the spells and special abilities of all Banites, whether they recognized him as Bane or Cyric, because he could not resist the chance to prevaricate in such a broad way and because he hoped to eventually lure the stubborn holdouts to his cause.
Three years after the Godswar, Bane’s priests had converted almost entirely to Cyricism, though many still stubbornly worshiped Cyric as the new Bane. Cyric lost patience with the remaining priests of Bane, particularly the greatest holdouts in the Moonsea region, and unleashed an inquisition known as the Banedeath in Zhentil Keep (and later across the rest of Faerun). Tendays of rampage ensued wherein all temples and obvious worship sites of the old dead god were destroyed. The Banedeath resulted in the death of most of Bane’s remaining priests in Zhentil Keep, but Banite worship persisted marginally throughout Faerun, albeit now wholly underground, both figuratively and literally. Cyric continued to grant spells and special abilities to the few remaining Banites during this time for reasons known only to him. One small group from Zhentil Keep began seeking the return of lyachtu Xvim, the Godson, to succeed his late father rather than converting to Cyricism.
Seven years after the Banedeath, Cyric destroyed Zhentil Keep. At the end of 1368 DR, some Cyric worshipers converted to the worship of the newly empowered lyachtu Xvim, the Godson, who had managed to establish a base in Gehenna. One of the leading Banite priests who converted to Cyricism, Fzoul Chembryl, apparently deserted Cyric to encourage (and perhaps lead) lyachtu Xvim’s rising faith. Surviving members of the Risen Cult of Bane view the Godson as Bane reborn. A few isolated pockets of true Banites still exist, but they receive no spells or abilities and are mainly focused around the High Imperceptor, who has lived in hiding since the death of Bane. It is undoubtedly only a short time until these scant few convert to the worship of another power.
The High Imperceptor was in theory the supreme living servant of Bane (numerous former High Imperceptors survive as Baneliches) and was formerly directly recognized as such by Bane, but in practice this declared leadership was often not the actual case. Well before the Time of Troubles, Fzoul Chembryl of Zhentil Keep led a powerful faction of the church into schism. He then assumed complete authority of the splinter branch—an act whose temerity Bane rewarded by possessing Fzoul directly when the Fall of the Gods came down upon Faerun. There have been other rebel leaders in the church of Bane, such as the Risen Cult of Bane, the Orthodox Church of Bane, the True Church of Bane, the Old Church of Bane, and so on. Bane suffered such strife to continue down the years because it brought eager service beyond the call of duty and because he delighted in the strife itself.
On his return, Bane has acted personally to eradicate the divisions in his church. Going so far as to name Fzoul Chembryl, the ruler of Zhentil Keep, as his personal Chosen Tyrant and infallible mortal representative. The formerly fractious Banites have made common cause in viscious pogroms against those clerics who turned to Cyric after Bane’s “death”, and who have not returned to the fold; their increased cooperation can only lead to foul tidings for the rest of Faerün.
Worshipers of Bane are known as dreadmasters, a term used regardless of the gender of its owner. Some worshipers of Bane operated outside the rigid church hierarchy; and were mainly adventurers and hermits seeking to create their own power base to eventually destroy the others. Novices of Bane’s clergy are addressed as “slave,” but if named by Bane from a speaking altar or in a dream vision, they become full priests of the god and gained the title of Watchful Brother/Watchful Sister. From there, they ascend through the following rankings: Deadly Adept, Trusted Servant, Willing Whip, Hooded Menace, Black Fang, Striking Hand, Vigilant Talon, Masked Death, Dark Doom, Higher Doom, and Deep Mystery. This latter title is a general one held by all clergy members of 12th and greater level.
A priest of this rank addresses fellow clergy members of higher ranks or levels as “Deeper Mystery” (not to do so was regarded as a deliberate insult). Known individual titles among the Banites of Deeper Mystery included Vigilator, Lord/Lady of Mysteries, Lord/Lady of the Hand, Imperceptor, Dark Imperceptor, Grand Bloodletter, High Inquisitor, and High Imperceptor. All except the last title were self-bestowed, but such self-given titles had to be confirmed and used upon the bestower by a higher ranking priest before they were formally recognized.
Banites address each other only by title unless the mix of individuals present would cause confusion without the addition of a surname. Banite clergy bow, kneel to, or kiss the boots of superiors, depending on the difference in their ranks—and what they are ordered to do. When in the presence of nonworshipers of Bane, Banite clergy addressed each other as “Brother/Sister Faithful” unless speaking to a superior of considerably greater rank, whereupon “Dread Brother/Sister” would be used.
Priests of Bane pride themselves on cold, decisive thought, speech, and action. Sarcasm and cutting authority are valued over shouting, loss of temper, or uncontrolled behavior. Two priests arguing to the death may well appear as softly polite but insistent noblemen debating some minor point right up to the last moments of one (or both) of their lives.
The clergy members of Bane’s church believe that those who crossed the Dark One meet their dooms earlier and more harshly than those who foolishly worshiped other deities than Bane and still inevitably fall before the church of Bane. All priests of Bane are ordered to submit to the word of Bane as uttered by Banite clergy members who outranked them and to “spread the Dark Fear” of Bane.
Bane whispers to initiates in their dreams: “Serve no one but me. Fear me always—and make others fear me even more than you do. The Black Hand always strikes down those who stand against it in the end. Defy me and die—or in your death find loyalty, for 1 shall compel it. Submit to my will, since true power can only be gained through service to me. It is the doom of those unguided by me to let power spill through their hands.”
Bane desires to rule the world so that all Faerun would know his tyranny. His clergy members are charged with the task of rising to power in every realm and if necessary leading a band, city-state, or kingdom to war to conquer its neighbors in order to bring ever more territory under the sway of the Black Hand of Bane. Hatred, strife, and destruction are to be spread—but under clear duress and control, not unbridled chaos. Domination is preferred to debauchery, and carefully limited discord to stability. Cruelty, torture, and mayhem are tacitly encouraged, but those caught at such activities have to pay the price unless they have served Bane so well by spreading fear that none dared speak or act against them. Superior Banite clergy members have to be obeyed at all times and in all things. The faithful are to work subtly and patiently—but tirelessly— to bring members of the faith to power in every guild, village, town, court, war band, fellowship, realm, and society. All rules of the church have to be followed to the utmost, but the rules of others were no rules at all.
Holy Days/Important Ceremonies
No rituals of Bane correspond to calendar dates, seasons, or lunar progressions. Rituals are held whenever clergy leading a congregation declare they will be, and these ceremonies are called by a wide variety of names. Personal prayers to Bane are to be uttered before going into battle and before eating or drinking anything to thank Bane for allowing his worshiper to live to taste the fare.
Rituals are held in a place of darkness (often simply outdoors at night) lit only by dim magical radiances, moonlight, and flickering torches or braziers. Usually dark chambers, caverns, and ruins are used. The worshipers gather around the Black Altar, which was a plain stone block draped with black cloth or painted black, a block of obsidian, or anything over which a large, floating, black stone Hand of Bane hovers (levitating there by a wizard clergy member or a magical item used by a priest or through magic of its own). If no Hand of Bane is present, an empty black throne is always placed facing the Black Altar. Services in such evil churches involve rolling drums, chanting, and sometimes singing—and the sacrifice of intelligent life. Sacrifices have to be humiliated, tortured, and made to show fear before dying to be acceptable to Bane, and they usually meet their deaths through slashing, flogging, or being crushed by the floating Hand of Bane.
Major Centers of Worship
The largest and most powerful temple of Bane was not located in Zhentil Keep, nor was it the court of the High Imperceptor at the Black Lord’s Altar in Mulmaster (though that is usually considered the center of the faith). The largest temple of Bane in all Faerun is the Black Lord’s Cloak in the city of Mourktar on the edge of the flat, sandy plains of Threskel. It has been said (accurately) that only the presence of this temple, which grew to rule the entire city following the death of King Theris and the subsequent assassination of his successor, prevented the more ambitious Red Wizards of Thay from abandoning all plans to assault Rashemen and instead establishing a beachhead in Threskel from which to attack decadent Unther and fractious Chessenta.
Imperceptor Kabarrath Telthaug styled himself Dread Imperceptor in the days before the Time of Troubles, asserting his own independence of the standard Banite hierarchy. It is not hard to understand why: He commands over 700 Banite priests of rank, another 1,000 lesser clergy members, and a well-equipped, harshly disciplined army of loyal troops armed with many items of minor magic, and well practiced in slaughter. This army has been force-marched west to ravage cities in Chessenta time and time again only to pull back when the exercises are over.
The temple is named for its only relic, an animated black cloak once worn by Bane himself that became a sentient monster that envelops people from time to time and sucks them dry of all blood. The Black Lord’s Cloak temple complex has grown into a vast palace where Kabarrath keeps the wealth of subject Threskel and its fleet of merchant and fishing vessels. The widely feared pirate fleet of Alkoth is said to have secretly served the priests of the Cloak, and it is certain that the adventuring bands the Six Black Blades and the Crow Banners (active in Murghom, Mulhorand, and Var)— and probably other tomb-robbing organizations as well—were agents sent forth from Threskel to gather magic, wealth, and less glamorous supplies for Kabarrath s temple and the greater glory of Bane.
With the destruction of the Untheric pantheon, Imperceptor Kabarrath perceives a power vacuum in which he can seize control of that ancient nation.
With Bane’s return and his appointment of Fzoul as Chosen Tyrant, it remains to be seen where Imperceptor Kabarrarth fits into the new Order.
The Knights of the Black Gauntlet are a military order of crusaders and helmed horrors dedicated to Bane who are based in the city of Mintar on the shores of the Lake of Steam. This evil brotherhood is ruled with an iron fist by Teldorn Darkhope, Lord Knight Imperceptor of the Dark Lord. It was founded several years after Bane’s destruction when a ghostly black hand appeared in the ruling Mintaran satrap’s throne room on Midwinter’s Eve in the Year of the Helm (1362 DR). Teldorn emerged from the hand with a small company of black knights and quickly slew the indolent slug of a ruler and his guards.
After declaring himself Dark Tyrant of Mintar and wiping out all resistance to his rule, Teldorn began recruiting mercenaries from all over the South into his unholy knighthood. Whatever their personalities before joining the order, following Teldorn’s indoctrination each accepted supplicant is transformed into an incorruptible champion of evil and an uncompromising disciple of older in a ritual involving dark promise spells and other magics. Failure to satisfy the Lord Knight’s inquisition results in the death of the applicant and the creation of another helmed horror via the doom of Bane spell.
With Mintar firmly in his grip, it is believed that the Lord Knight Imperceptor has his eye on chaotic Tethyr. He began mustering his forces toward an invasion of Kzelter at the end of the Year of the Gauntlet (1369 DR). It is unknown what dark patron is granting the Knights of the Black Gauntlet their spells, but members of the order are firmly convinced it is Bane reborn— which leads those outside the faith to lean heavily toward laying their bets on lyachtu Xvim.
Banite clergy members always go armed and are required to always wear something black. Ceremonial dress for Banite priests consists of black armor with blood-red capes. The more prosperous the priest, the finer the workmanship of the armor was. The ceremonial robes of wizards of the clergy are always black; wizard clergy members of the highest ranks enspell these robes to swirl with ever-present illusions of glittering black stars and splashes of spilling blood. Facial tattoos are common among Banites. After the Time of Troubles, these unfortunately made them stand out among clear-faced new Cyricists within the ranks of Cyric’s faithful. High-level Banites wore gems on their foreheads.
Adventuring Garb: When adventuring, priests of Bane retain their black armor, though their battle armor usually sported cruel spurs, hooks, and horns. Wizardly clergy members prefer long, flowing, black-and-red robes. Neither group wears such gear in public if it would expose them to persecution or hamper their service to their deity. Usually, the facial tattoos of Banites are enough to identify them.
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