THE BLOOD OF VOL
Those who follow the Blood of Vol seek immortality from within, and many do not know of or willingly support the secret ambitions of the cult’s leader.
Portfolio: Undeath, immortality, blood, destiny, obedience.
Domains: Death, Deathbound‡, Evil, Law, Necromancer*.
Favored Weapon: Dagger.
The Blood of Vol is an ancient religion dedicated to the meaning of blood, the mysteries of heredity, death, and the undead. Most of its members believe that blood is the source of life and that undeath provides immortality and a path to divinity, but know little of the true motives of the religion.
True followers of the religion serve and revere the ancient lich Vol. This self-proclaimed Queen of the Dead was once the heir to the dragonmarked House of Vol, whose members carried the Mark of Death. In an attempt to end the elf-dragon wars the House of Vol attempted to mix elf and dragon blood. The result was Erandis d'Vol, a half-dragon created from the arcane union of an elven mother and a green dragon father who bore the Mark of Death.
The revelation of Erandis's existence lead to an alliance between the elves and the dragons for the purpose of destroying the House of Vol and all half-dragons as both sides saw them as an abomination. To insure her survival, Erandis's mother used her powers over death to transform Erandis into a lich.
Over the centuries, Vol gathered followers to her side forming the Blood of Vol and more recently the Order of the Emerald Claw. A powerful necromancer, Vol seeks to manipulate bloodlines and revive the House of Vol and the Mark of Death. Vol also seeks revenge of the elves of Aerenal and the dragons of Argonnessen. Her followers act as spies and often serve as advisors in various governments across the land all the while on the lookout for signs that the Mark of Death has returned.
Vol oversees her schemes from her home in Illmarrow Castle on the island of Farlnen in the northern Lhazaar islands. Her cult spreads its religion through the Lhazaar Principalities and continues to operate throughout Karrnath where it has had a foothold since the time of Kaius I. In Karrnath, the High Priest Malevanor oversees the cult's activities from the Crimson Monestary the largest temple devoted to Vol which is located in Atur, the City of Night. Other temples and strongholds are scattered across Khorvaire including one in the elven homeland of Aerenal.
Few religions are as misunderstood as the spiritual path known as the Blood of Vol. Seekers, as followers of the faith call themselves, do not worship a divine entity, nor do they revere their ancestors, as do the elves of Aerenal. Indeed, it would be difficult to classify the Blood of Vol as a religion at all were it not for the fact that its adherents do believe in a divinity—albeit a most unusual one.
If any single religious doctrine unites the Blood of Vol, it is the concept worshipers call the Divinity Within. This notion is embodied in one of the Seekers’ most treasured axioms, spoken at the opening of almost every ritual gathering:
Look not to the skies, nor to the depths below, nor even to the distant past or future. Seek the divine within, for the blood is the life, and in its call can be heard the promise of eternal life. One has but to listen.
This chant illustrates how the faith stands apart from more traditional religions. Seekers believe in no divinity but that which courses through their own veins, and refuse to acknowledge the existence of any “god” on principle alone. To them, followers of the Sovereign Host and the Dark Six are living deluded lives that will ultimately end in despair. Seeker philosophy does not exclude the three great Dragons but views them more as concepts than as literal beings. Worshipers believe in the power of things seen and grasped, and a dragonshard can be held in the hands, power coursing through it. Seekers hold that any “creator” who would devise the plane of Dolurrh as a soul’s final reward is worthy only of contempt. Thus, the faith focuses on the pragmatic—specifically, the lifeordeath coin toss that is existence.
Seekers believe that traditional faith is a self-indulgent conceit, a means for small minds and even smaller souls to come to terms with the true nature of existence. In a world as unforgiving as Eberron, the only faith that is not misplaced is faith in oneself and one’s own capabilities. When priests of Vol meditate on their daily spells, for example, they are praying not to deities or to concepts, but in truth, to themselves. The Divinity Within grants the power to shape reality, not some outside force.
Before moving onto the details of the Divinity Within, it is instructive to learn how the Blood of Vol came to be. Most would be surprised to learn that the roots of the faith stretch back tens of thousands of years to the time of the giants in Xen’drik. It was not until the lost mark—the Mark of Death—appeared among the elves of House Vol, however, that the Blood of Vol as we know it was born. In a misguided attempt to put an end to the conflict that had ravaged both elves and dragons, the matriarch of House Vol mixed the blood of the two races, resulting in the birth of a baby girl who embodied both. The matriarch, a powerful necromancer named Minara d’Vol, named her daughter Erandis after her grandmother. Unknown even to the rest of House Vol, Minara fell deeply in love with the girl’s father, a mighty green dragon known as the Emerald Claw (his true name is believed known only to Vol), over the course of her pregnancy. Erandis was raised in secret while both House Vol and the Emerald Claw tried to secure a peaceful end to the conflict.
How word of the half-dragon’s existence got out is still a mystery to this day. Some claim the baby girl was betrayed by one of the elves of House Vol, but none can explain who did so or why. The prevailing belief is that the girl’s own father, desperate for an end to the intermittent but devastating conflicts between the elves and dragons, announced the news of the successful union between elf and dragon. Whatever the cause, revelation of Erandis’s existence did indeed unify of the two races (and ironically, brought an end to the periodic conflicts) but not in the House Vol as they had hoped.
Mutual outrage brought elves and dragons together, and they immediately began a campaign to obliterate all traces of both half-dragons and House Vol from the face of Eberron.
According to legend, the Emerald Claw vanished not long after the purge began. Some say he was killed defending the race of half-dragons (of which his daughter was now the most famous example). Others claim he withdrew from the world in shame over what his hubris had wrought. Twenty-six hundred years ago, House Vol was brought low, and the Mark of Death was lost in the process. Rather than see her daughter destroyed, Minara used her powers over life and death to transform Erandis into a lich. She had just enough energy left to send her daughter to safety before a powerful red dragon named Avothirax arrived at the head of a thousand elf warriors.
SOULS AND THE AFTERLIFE
Seekers maintain that blood itself is the “soul” of life, coursing through the veins of sentient beings like a liquid god. In the mindset of most Vol cults, creatures that know nothing of blood—constructs, plants, oozes, and the like—are thus removed from true divinity. Vol doctrine holds that blood truly is life, and that without it, there is no real life at all. As a result, Seekers believe that blood holds the key to myriad doorways of power and wisdom, including the greatest passage of all: the door to life everlasting.
The concept of the Divinity Within is central to the Seekers’ view of the soul and to any notion of an afterlife. They absolutely believe in Dolurrh, and a few of the most powerful in the faith even claim to have been there and returned to tell of its vast emptiness. These grim testaments are often spoken in cult sermons all across Khorvaire to further embolden the Seekers’ drive to escape that gray fate. The Blood of Vol maintains that the key to such an escape lies in the Divinity Within. Those who look outward for succor are destined for betrayal by the very powers they revere, doomed to a soulless eternity. Only by looking inward, and by drawing strength from the Divinity Within, can a soul hope to find its own afterlife: a beautiful creation
crafted to its particular nature and character, and filled with an eternity of happiness.
The high position of the undead within the church might surprise those outside the faith. Vampires, liches, and mummies no longer have blood or life, and so can never fully bond to the Divinity Within. The Seekers believe that the intelligent undead have made this terrible sacrifice to overcome mortality and to serve the sect. Thus, they are revered and respected, but they are also pitied, for they can never touch perfection. The undead are champions of the church, guiding the people of Vol to their true destiny, but few who follow the faith would make that terrible choice.
The Symbol of the Blood of Vol
Despite its lack of organization, the Blood of Vol maintains a surprisingly consistent symbol for its faith worldwide. Every Vol cult I have seen or read about used at least a variation of the same icon—a stylized dragon skull resting atop a glowing red teardrop-shaped gem meant to symbolize the blood that is central to the beliefs of the faith.
The significance of the skull is obvious to anyone even slightly familiar with the Blood of Vol. What else would a self-styled “Queen of the Dead ” use to aggrandize herself and her faith? (It would be surprising if a religion of death-obsessed necromancers did not have a skull of some sort in their symbology.) But why a dragon skull? Some of my colleagues have theorized that the faith claims a far deeper connection to the various Cults of the Dragon Below than many realize, and that this symbol is the proof. This assertion makes little sense, since such a blatant reference would nullify any attempt at hiding said connections. No, the tie must lie elsewhere, though I have yet to discover what it could possibly be.
Servants of The Blood of Vol
Unlike the cult’s enemies in the Church of the Silver Flame, the people of Vol are an exceedingly diverse lot who would be surprised to learn that they have anything at all in common. The faith incorporates all the diversity of the Sovereign Host, and is spread out just as far, but with fewer members in its global congregation.
COMING TO THE FAITH
The most telling characteristic of the Blood of Vol is the variety of ways in which its followers come to the faith. Only a specific type of person actively seeks to join a religion such as the Silver Flame, and being brought up within the Church is no guarantee of continued faith. By contrast, almost anyone could seek out a Vol cult. Despite the faith’s broad-reaching charter and the deception inherent in its hierarchy, one trait is common to every Seeker, regardless of race or region—unshakable belief in the power of the self.
Any true student of Vol’s mysteries is a devotee of the Divinity Within, and whatever else a soul might be, so long as it stands firm by this single creed, it will always be a Seeker at heart. This unifying belief not only lends strength to the faith as a whole, but fosters power and versatility in its congregation.
BECOMING A PRIEST
The bulk of the faith’s priests hail from the lay worshipers. Once their understanding of the Divinity Within has progressed beyond a certain point, some Seekers feel compelled to help others find the path and are subsequently exalted to the role of priest. In theory, joining the priesthood takes nothing more than a clear understanding of its role in the journey of the individual, and a strong desire to serve. In practice, of course, things play out somewhat differently.
The global priesthood of the faith (such as it is) is the mechanism by which the lich-queen Vol influences the lives of Seekers everywhere. Most worshipers have no idea that Vol still exists, let alone the full extent of her schemes and manipulations. A secret circle of advisors and functionaries known as the Crimson Covenant acts as the “ruling body” of the faith—the Blood of Vol equivalent of the Silver Flame’s Diet of Cardinals—despite the fact that many Seekers never learn of its existence, nor of the extent of its impact on their own lives.
Taking the cloth in the Blood of Vol does not necessarily involve learning the truth about the Crimson Covenant. Most would-be priests of Vol are carefully investigated by Covenant agents before being exalted. In order to maintain this structure, the high priest has to be “in the know.” Each cult of any size has a temple head who is in direct communication with the Crimson Covenant or is an active part of it (the latter is always the case with the largest temples).
When a potential new priest appears, the local temple head sends word to superiors in the Covenant. While waiting for an official reply, the temple head begins to test the would-be priest on matters of faith— specifically, knowledge of the twin subjects of life and death. He also conducts a special Sacrament of Blood in the petitioner’s honor, secretly preserving the blood for delivery to the Crimson Covenant. When the Covenant finally does address the request, it has accumulated enough information to provide a detailed recommendation one way or the other. If all goes smoothly, the temple head is permitted to induct the petitioner into the priesthood. If not, …
The specifics vary from one group to the next, and some cults are cut off entirely from the Covenant (though the organization is doing its best to corral the most important ones), but most new priests go through some period of probation akin to seminary study. Usually, probation lasts no longer than three years, and no less than one year. During this time, the priest studies intensely in matters of death, history, and spirituality. An individual who displays a propensity for adept or cleric magic receives additional education and training in these areas. At the close of each year, the temple head who first sponsored the acolyte (or the present temple head, if a change has occurred) submits another report to the Crimson Covenant. Based on this report, as well as on its own findings in the interim, the Covenant decides either to let the priest in on the truth, or to keep him ignorant for another year. If permission is not granted to indoctrinate the priest into the truth of the Covenant after the third year, that priest will never be so indoctrinated.
Although it might seem disorganized in comparison to certain faiths, the Blood of Vol is a formal hierarchy, as rigorous as any other. The difference lies in the levels of secrecy maintained, and in the flow of information throughout every level of the faith. While many are unaware of it, the religion maintains a number of suborders and titles, the most pivotal of which are as follows.
Vol, Queen of the Dead: At the top of the religion sits its progenitor and namesake, Erandis d’Vol. From her place of seclusion in Illmarrow Castle, perched on frozen Farlnen island in the far northern -reaches of the Lhazaar Principalities, the lich directs the efforts of a vast network of priests, spies, catspaws, and agents provocateurs. She is the supreme authority of the faith, and anyone lucky enough to communicate with her directly is expected to follow her orders to the letter, quickly and without question. Like any organization of willful (and usually evil) beings, the faith sees its fair share of political backstabbing and scheming, but Vol is chillingly efficient at maintaining absolute loyalty.
The Crimson Covenant: The lich-queen’s operations would be hampered substantially were it not for her inner circle of trusted functionaries. For centuries, the Crimson Covenant has been the primary link between Vol and the day-to-day operations of the faith worldwide. The Covenant numbers thirteen, each of whom is either an intelligent undead or a mortal who has managed to bypass the rigors of time (see the thief of life prestige class on page 84). Each member has an unrestricted line of communication to Vol herself (though few dare abuse the privilege), and provides regular updates on the activities he or she oversees. Unlike other tiers of the faith, those who sit on this council know the identities of their fellow Covenant members, and the entire body is protected by the mightiest magic at Vol’s disposal. Few could even hope to divine the existence of the Covenant, let alone its makeup or the location of individual members.
The Abactors: The Crimson Covenant maintains a network of Seekers known as abactors. Each is a temple head, responsible for the operation of both a temple and cult of substantial size. (The two groups are not mutually exclusive, and a handful of those in the Crimson Covenant are abactors themselves.) Abactors are, by definition, Seekers who are clerics of the Blood of Vol. Their ability and trustworthiness sets them apart from other priests, and they are inducted into the deepest mysteries of the faith. In return, they coordinate the induction of new cult members and oversee the collection and shipping of preserved blood to Covenantchosen areas.
The Order of the Emerald Claw: Not beneath so much as beside the network of abactors is Vol’s paramilitary arm in Karrnath and beyond, the Order of the Emerald Claw. Ties to the Blood of Vol are known only to the highest ranks of the Order. Given the Order’s high profile, especially in Karrnath, security is a top concern, and even the most trusted unit commander typically knows only her immediate superior in the Covenant (often by a false name or face). In this manner does Vol protect herself and her secrets.
The Clergy: The lowest rung on the ladder of faith hierarchy is the general priesthood. Many in this tier are ignorant of the truth of the religion’s makeup, even after years of faithful service. The magically active clergy of Vol includes a number of clerics but is primarily composed of adepts, with the remainder being necromancers of various stripes. Clerics are inducted into the truth of the faith more often than noncleric priests, due in part to the depth of their connection to and understanding of the Divinity Within. Priests of Vol hail from all races and walks of life, and were it not for common ritual and symbology, they would fail to recognize one another on a busy street.
DUTIES OF THE CLERGY
Every priest of Vol shares the same duty as every follower: Seek out the Divinity Within. Even those who have already unlocked their own potential divinity, becoming immortal in the process, are expected to continue research in the mysteries of life, death, and beyond (furthering the cause of the lich-queen Vol in the process). All priests of Vol must obey reasonable orders from their superiors in the faith. For most, this means executing the local temple head’s commands without question. For temple heads and others in the know, it means following the orders of the Crimson Covenant to the letter.
The clergy of the Blood of Vol conduct ceremonies and lead important rituals, just as priests of other faiths do. In all but the most savage of cults, priests of Vol can be found fulfilling mundane roles in the lives of their fellow Seekers, offering counsel to the faithful, and even taking confessions. While it is far from common, a priest might even host and witness the union of two Seekers in the congregation, although the ceremony generally needs to be repeated before a civil representative to be legally binding (especially in Thrane).
There is no single, mandated holy symbol associated with the faith. While the Blood of Vol has a symbol, which sees a great deal of usage as a holy symbol, it is not the holy symbol of every priest. Each is allowed (and indeed, expected) to find a symbol that resonates with him, and to keep it sacred. This unorthodox practice not only reflects the faith’s focus on the needs of the individual, but also keeps its activities private. Along the same lines, priests of Vol are not expected to don any particular attire outside their temples. When conducting services, they wear garb of predominantly black and red. Shaved heads are common, especially in some cults, but are not mandated.
Clerics of the Blood of Vol pursue and master spells of the necromancy school, especially those dealing with death or the animation of the dead. A strong grasp of how divine magic interacts with death and the soul is fundamental to understanding the Divinity Within. Those who have the power to raise the dead, for example, are seen as spiritually advanced, thus gaining greater status and respect. Any Vol cleric capable of true resurrection is deemed particularly blessed.
The procedure for removing a priest of the Blood of Vol is disturbingly uncomplicated. As a rule, something grievous enough to warrant defrocking is enough to justify the priest’s death. Death before divinity is the worst fate a Seeker can conceive, so execution is the only suitable punishment for a betrayer. This harsh treatment typically occurs only when a priest is discovered to be actively serving the interests of a rival faith, most often the Church of the Silver Flame. In the eyes of many Seekers, particularly those who know the truth about the faith, such punishment is “too good” for the offending traitor.
Ostensibly, most quests in the name of the faith are intended to acquire something Seekers hope will provide insight into the mysteries of life, death, and beyond. Often a relic or scrap of data from before the Last War, such an item could also be a vision or even a living being. In practice, the majority of quests are little more than dirty work, commissioned by the higher-ups in the faith (often on behalf of the Crimson Covenant) to advance the cause of the lich-queen. The faith’s leaders have no qualms about deceiving those who have not yet been brought into the fold, and indeed, service without question determines whether one is likely ever to be so inducted. In this regard, quests serve double duty as tests of faith and loyalty. Those who return successful move one step closer to earning a valued place in the Covenant. Those who do not have proven their ineptitude or cowardice (or both) and are treated accordingly. Those who fail to return at all were clearly never worthy in the first place.
Rites and Rituals of the Blood of Vol
The Blood of Vol does not conduct rituals in the name of a specific deity, as many other faiths do, nor does it celebrate or revere the natural world. Yet ritual is no less important to Seekers than it is to members of other faiths. The difference lies in purpose. Seeker rites are not intended to garner the favor of a deity but must serve a particular purpose, and that purpose must be not only worthwhile, but vital.
Followers of the Blood of Vol make little use of conventional prayer, since no specific deity exists to entreat. Seekers of certain variant sects, especially those whose worship involves one or more named deities, often pray to those deities, but usually only during rites of greater import. Most Seekers only pray to themselves, often to steel their souls for an upcoming challenge or event. Such “prayers” consist of a quiet or even soundless recitation, the most common being “As the blood is the power, and the blood flows through me, the power is mine.”
The Blood of Vol as a whole maintains no minor rites, as any faith-wide practice is considered a major rite, by definition. All localized practices and rituals are therefore considered minor rites, and these vary from cult to cult. Most cults prefer to leave many minor rites to the individual, as the pursuit of the understanding of the self is of paramount importance in the faith, and therefore they keep few (if any) such rites as a group. Other cults, however, choose to focus on the communal identity of the faith, and thus encourage all local Seekers to be in attendance. These situations are more accurately seen as examples of how the faith uses ritual to build the bonds between members, rather than any indicator of the importance of the ritual itself. In these circumstances, minor rites can include things such as the celebration of a fellow Seeker’s enlightenment (often represented in game terms by advances in class level), the induction of a new member into the cult, or, perhaps most commonly, the communal meditation circles held regularly in most Vol cults.
The Blood of Vol as a faith does not mark life events as others do (although individual worshipers might). By its very nature, it has little interest in what passes for daily life among the civilized peoples of Khorvaire. Weddings, for example, are of no significance to most Seekers. However, the faith is concerned with matters of life, death, and beyond, so two events of daily life hold as much import for Seekers as they do for others: births and deaths.
Unlike other faiths, the Blood of Vol ritually marks the passage of life-giving or life-ending events even if they occur outside the ranks of the faithful. The faith is not indifferent to the births and deaths of Seekers (these, too, are marked with ritual), but it also pays attention to the lives of important figures regardless of religion. This unusual habit puts Seekers in the position of ritually venerating the birth or death of complete strangers.
On rare occasions, a cult leader calls the local Seekers together to mark a birth or death of an unknown or otherwise unremarkable individual. Even so, no loyal Seeker questions the decision. This rite happens most often with deaths but can also occur at births from time to time. The order to conduct the rite almost always comes straight from the Crimson Covenant, and even local leaders are often mystified as to the significance of the individual so honored. Most never realize their leaders are acting on orders from above, of course. Beyond this veneration of the twin passages into life and death, the Blood of Vol has two “high holidays” that involve substantial ceremony. The first, the Sacrament of Blood, is held at irregular intervals throughout the course of the year, and is the cornerstone ritual of the faith entire. The second is held during Crya, the thirteenth and “lost” month of the year.
The Sacrament of Blood: This is the most sacred practice in the Blood of Vol. During the Sacrament, all the local Seekers gather in a specially prepared chamber, far from the eyes of prying outsiders. The cult leader begins with a brief chant in Draconic, welcoming the assembly as both individuals and parts of a collective soul. After the chant, the leader moves in turn to each participant, who ritually cuts himself with a special dagger known as a bloodfang. He then allows the Seeker seated next to him to hold his hand while it drips blood into the ritemaster’s ruby chalice. The ritual continues in this manner until every Seeker in attendance has given of his own blood. Unknown to many who partake in the ritual, the blood so collected is stored in barrels of preserving pine and shipped across Khorvaire for use in a wide variety of necromantic practices.
Revelations Day (Crya 13th): As the year grows colder and finally dies, each Seeker examines whateverspiritual progress he has (or has not) made in the preceding year. Revelations Day, also known as Ascension Day, offers every member of the faith the chance to take back a portion of what he has given throughout the year, and to reflect on the insights so gained. During the Revelations Day ritual, the ritemaster convenes the assembled Seekers for a Sacrament of Blood. This time, though, the ritemaster conducts a magical ceremony over the filled chalice that simultaneously cleanses the blood of impurities while concentrating the life energies inherent within the precious liquid. (Secretly, it is often mystically altered in other ways, depending on the ritemaster’s orders.) When this ceremony is complete, the ritemaster passes the chalice around once more, with each Seeker drinking from it in turn, taking back no more than he had put in. This ingestion always results in a mind-altering episode whose duration and
intensity varies with the individual, and to a lesser extent, the amount consumed. These “blood trips” offer faithful souls the chance to visualize the truths that lie within not only their own blood, but within that of their fellow Seekers.
The Blood of Vol has been around since long before the formation of Galifar, and thus does not use the standard calendar to mark either religious observances or the passage of time. The faith follows the oldest active calendar on Eberron, called the Qabalrin Wheel. Named after the elf civilization that developed it on Xen’drik millennia ago, it was the only calendar of record for much of Eberron’s early history. Like its modern counterpart, the Qabalrin Wheel is divided into months that correspond to the moons of Eberron, but unlike the Galifar calendar, it still recognizes the thirteenth moon (believed lost to the cosmos when the giants sealed off the plane of Xoriat so many centuries ago). The Wheel has thirteen months rather than the standard twelve, with the last— Crya, associated with the lost Mark of Death—coming after Vult and before Zarantyr on the Galifar calendar. This renders the Qabalrin Wheel year one month longer than the Galifar year.
The Blood of Vol liturgical calendar reckons time from the year when the House of Vol was betrayed, forcing its last scion into an eternity of undeath. To Seekers in the know, 998 YK corresponds to 2398 FH (the 2398th year since the Fall of the House). Many Seekers do not use this convention, of course, and even those who do still use the Galifar calendar for dealings outside the faith. The Blood of Vol
IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Unlike the Sovereign Host or Church of the Silver Flame, the Blood of Vol has neither a region where the faith is dominant (at least, not outwardly) nor a nation to call its own. Worship is strong all over Khorvaire, particularly in Karrnath and Droaam, but even where practice of the religion occurs openly, no dominance can be claimed.
THE PEOPLE OF THE BLOOD OF VOL
Members of the monstrous races (particularly goblinoids, gnolls, and minotaurs) are often born into the faith, while other humanoids (especially humans and half-orcs) typically come to it later in life. In all but the most savage Seeker communities, forcible conversion is seen as senseless, and worse yet, a waste of time and resources. People too ignorant to see the truth should be left to their own devices (until they are needed). Even when Seekers capture someone outside the faith, they almost never give the nonbeliever the “convert or die” ultimatum. Examples of captured souls asking to join the faith do exist, but Seekers demand that individuals come to them. The growth of the spirit is always a personal matter, left entirely to the individual (though half-hearted souls might become community sacrifices in some areas).
THE BLOOD OF VOL AND GOVERNMENT
Although many Seekers are unaware of it, their faith is one of the most politically active on Eberron. In its upper echelons, the Blood of Vol is a force for political and social change that uses its congregation as a worldwide masquerade for its true agenda.
The Blood of Vol is involved to some extent in every major government on Khorvaire. The faith is best known for its connections to Karrnath, where it is responsible for, among other things, turning the tide of the Last War and begetting the recently outlawed Order of the Emerald Claw. With the reemergence of Kaius I (now a vampire, thanks to Vol herself) in the guise of Kaius III, the faith has met with setbacks.
Still, it is stronger and more influential in Karrnath than in most other areas. And if the recently converted Shirin d’Deneith succeeds in his bid to take over House Deneith, the tide could turn in favor of the Blood of Vol once more.
The faith is almost as active in the neighboring state of Aundair, though its presence is not nearly as open or accepted. The capital at Fairhaven is the headquarters of the Cult of Life, the single largest order within the Blood of Vol, which serves as the Aundairian equivalent of the Order of the Emerald Claw (though without the public persona). Vol is much more careful about her operations in Aundair, for the region is important to her future plans. Her operatives have thus far managed to keep a low profile, despite having made substantial inroads in the Aundairian political system.
Seekers are influential in both Breland and the Lhazaar Principalities, each of which houses one of the most important temples of Vol worldwide (the Widening Gyre in Xandrar, Breland, and Illmarrow Castle in the far north). Vol’s efforts are much more hands-off in the Principalities, due to the region’s political system and her desire to def lect attention, but in Breland, the Crimson Covenant is waging an all-out campaign to wrest power and influence from the locals. Some Seekers believe Breland will be the site of the faith’s greatest struggle.
THE BLOOD OF VOL AND OTHER FAITHS
Like the Church of the Silver Flame, the Blood of Vol believes that all other faiths are wrong. The typical Seeker believes in no divinity beyond that which runs through his own veins, and vehemently decries mindless worship until (and often beyond) his last breath. The Blood of Vol holds most other religions in contempt: No sane soul would choose to give up self-determination, the greatest gift of existence. Yet every other major religion on Eberron places the fates of its members in the hands of outside forces, whether gods, angels, demons, or nature itself. Perhaps the only tenet that Seekers share with members of other faiths is that a soul’s actions in life determine its final reward. Still, where others believe that actions are tallied and judged by those they worship, cultists of Vol hold that an individual’s actions are the only way for the soul to escape Dolurrh, for their own sake.
Individual members of the cult of Vol have differing attitudes on other religions, often based solely on their individual experiences with said faiths, but the “party line” is roughly as follows.
The Silver Flame: Empty-headed zealots of the worst order. The best lesson one can learn from the socalled Purified is how destructive faith can be when it is left to another to dictate. The only pure thing about these soulless sheep is the self-righteous condescension they harbor for us.
The Sovereign Host: A faith that could almost be considered quaint, were it not so pervasive. It is a terrible pity that so many are content to eke out miserable lives in the honor of “gods” who have clearly forsaken them. I leave them to their misery … and to Dolurrh.
The Dark Six: Vassals of the Six suffer from the same disease of the soul that affects those of the Host, but at least they are more honest about it (followers of the Keeper in particular). If nothing else, they make valuable if untrustworthy allies against the more zealous of the Silver Flame.
Druid Sects: Some claim that these nature-worshipers are our greatest enemies. In truth, we are more alike than different. We both venerate nature. They look to the natural world beyond us, and in that are misdirected. It is the nature within us all—blood—that deserves the greatest reverence.
Other Faiths: Simpletons. I can respect power and can understand why some might want to be in league with mighty beings. But to offer one’s soul to such beings—to lay all hope for divinity at another’s feet—is beyond pathetic. Even the druids are worthy of more respect.
THE BLOOD OF VOL IN THE LAST WAR
Many individual Seekers tried to make the most of the “opportunity” that was the Last War. Some used the chaos as cover for operations to ferret out relics or secrets whose existence or access had been forbidden during peacetime. A few were successful; many others fell alongside those who fought in the war. The bulk of the Crimson Covenant’s resources in the Last War, however, were tied up in the lich-queen’s efforts to secure Karrnath’s power and wealth.
Once the Last War had begun in earnest, Vol directed elders of her priesthood to approach King Kaius I with an offer. The Blood of Vol, influential in the region for some time, pledged full support to Kaius and to Karrnath in exchange for a few “small considerations.” The timing, of course, was perfect. Cyre and Thrane were on the move, each eager to claim Karrnath for its own, and Kaius’s diplomatic relations with what few allies remained had never been worse. Were it not for Vol’s aid, Karrnath would have fallen during the Last War.
The Blood of Vol provided two primary sources of aid, which mark Karrnath to this day. They created undead to bolster and replace Karrnath’s living troops, stemming the tide of Thrane’s advance. Combined with the elite corps known as the Order of the Emerald Claw, also provided by the Blood of Vol, Karrnath gained ground against not only Thrane, but Aundair, Breland, and Cyre as well.
Vol herself came before the king of Karrnath to claim her due. First, she demanded that her cult be allowed to establish temples and bases in his kingdom. Second, she required Kaius to undergo the Sacrament of Blood. Kaius had heard of the ritual and knew it was harmless to participants, so he agreed. Vol deceived him, however, and used the ritual to turn Kaius into her own personal thrall as a vampire. However, Kaius refused to bow, and Vol triggered his bloodlust in response, causing him to murder his own wife. Ever since his return as Kaius III (posing as his own grandson), he has worked ceaselessly to remove Vol’s inf luence from his land, first and foremost by outlawing of the Order of the Emerald Claw.
Temples and Shrines of the Blood of Vol
The Blood of Vol is flexible about what structures can serve as shrines. Once again, individuality is respected. Seekers keep their faith in their own ways, and the religion mandates no adherence to any particular size, style, or construction of a shrine. It must contain an altar of some kind, along with a means for collecting ritually shed blood neatly and without undue waste. Any room can serve this purpose, so long as it is prepared withthe proper care and reverence. Most shrines are private affairs and usually small, since proper temples serve the needs of larger groups.
True temples are almost as varied as shrines but share more features. They are built of stone, natural or worked; the type is immaterial. Some are elaborate, using state-of-the-art engineering and magical techniques, incorporating multiple wings and vast, vaulted chambers. Others are simple, one-room cubes of severe look and design, and a few are converted natural caverns. As with smaller shrines, the only requisite detail is an altar (preferably in its own room). Even the altar itself need not have any specific shape or design. In some temples, it is located against the far wall of the altar room; in others, on the floor in the dead center of the room; in still others, it is elevated and placed to one side. Every temple of any means also maintains a system to collect and preserve blood in the altar room. This can be a permanent magical effect, in the case of the largest and wealthiest temples, or simply a pattern of grooves in the floor of the chamber, where spilled blood can pool in a specified collection place.
Candles, braziers, and other sources of fire are common, and a temple usually maintains at least one flame for each member of the local cult. These soulflames are kept alight, burning bright and red, whenever the temple is in use. They symbolize the sacred fire flowing through all sentient life. When a cultist unlocks the secret to divinity—by no longer aging or by becoming undead—that flame is extinguished, but the candle or brazier remains. If a Seeker dies before making sufficient spiritual progress, that flame is treated with chemicals that make it burn a different color—most often black, but some temples use silver when a Seeker is murdered by a Silver Flame zealot—for three full days and nights. After this time, the light is extinguished and the source of the flame destroyed.
Priests of the Blood of Vol seek out manifest zones of Mabar, the plane of Endless Night, to build shrines and temples. When the plane is coterminous with Eberron, it enhances the power of magic sacred to the faith, but this happens only once every five years, and for just three nights. Unknown to even most Seekers, the Crimson Covenant aggressively searches for such zones, and has built numerous new temples since the end of the Last War. Rumor tells of a massive ritual to be conducted during the three nights when next Mabar is coterminous, but none can say what such an ambitious rite is to accomplish.
The largest and most famous of all Vol’s temples is the Crimson Monastery in Atur, the City of Night, in Karrnath. Like the Cathedral of the Silver Flame, the monastery is fortresslike in design and defensibility. Unlike its counterpart in Flamekeep, it presents a far more humble exterior. The local high priest, an abactor of the Covenant named Malevanor (LE male mummy cleric 9), uses his temple’s innocuous reputation to hide in plain sight amid the turbulent political climate of postwar Karrnath. Malevanor rarely leaves his inner chambers and when he does, he goes heavily cloaked.
Khorvaire boasts two other notable temples. The first is Illmarrow Castle, the home of Vol herself, in northern Lhazaar. The second is the Widening Gyre, a subterranean complex hidden beneath the streets of Xandrar, on the northwestern outskirts of Breland. From this underground temple (which is concealed by magic, as well as by natural rock), a Covenant abactor named Baszilio (LE male vampire [human] rogue 2/necromancer 5/cleric 3) runs not only local affairs, but also a corridor of communication and trade with Covenant agents in Karrnath. According to rumor, Baszilio was in life a cousin to Shirin d’Deneith, Lord Commander of the Blademarks, and has been aiding the ambitious dragonmark heir in his plan to wrest control of House Deneith away from Breven d’Deneith, the current baron of the house.
Those who take on the thief of life prestige class operate in the greatest secrecy, and they need safe places to practice their arts. Such locals are often found in the grandest cities. This safe house in Karrlakton, Karrnath, belongs to Randall Aleazar d’Deneith, a minor noble who has cultivated a public image of refi nement and intense privacy.
In fact, he is a vampire, a member of the Crimson Covenant, and a friend to the Cult of Life.
Ground Floor: This area includes the more frequented sections of the house.
1. Courtyard. The house proper is reached through a walled courtyard, open to the sky. The superior masonry, 12-foot high walls contain two tinkling fountainsand tasteful marble statues. Marble stepping stones extend to the house’s double doors while a balcony overlooks the area.
2. Foyer. This grand hall features a mosaic floor of abstract patterns and a massive stone stairway dominating the far end. Numerous doors open into the main living areas, while a side passage ends in a hidden vault (area 9).
3. Closet. A walk-in closet has space to hold coats for dozens of guests or occupants.
4. Pantry. Behind the main staircase is the pantry, with an indoor privy adjacent. A cunningly worked panel (Search DC 12) assures privacy.
5. Kitchen. This is a large and functional kitchen, although it contains no staff. Users of the safe house must prepare their own food.
6. Dining Hall. To keep up appearances, Randall occasionally hosts a formal dinner in here. His guests are usually fellow cultists. Sometimes he has a real gathering of other nobility, who have no idea what lies behind the other doors. Even so, this area is rarely used.
7. Living Room. Guests of the safe house relax here. It contains comfortable stuffed furniture, and shelves filled with the sort of books expected in a noble’s library.
8. Lower Bedroom. A couple of cultists (human rogue 5/thief of life 2) rest here en route to an assignment for the Crimson Covenant. Should trouble arise, they attempt to escape through the large windows (whose heavy curtains are always drawn) rather than start a fight.
9. Vault. Guests of the safe house can store their valuables in this room. These include weapons and combat magic.
Upper Floor: These rooms hide the mansion’s deepest secrets.
10. Closets. Two ordinary-looking closets hold linens and toiletry items. Between them is a hidden room (Search DC 18) for storing barrels of preserving pine until the blood can be shipped out.
11. Shrine to Vol.* This small shrine serves for prayers and Sacraments of Blood. A marble altar is surmounted with the emblem of the Blood of Vol, and contains a basin for blood collected during rituals. A bloodfang ritual dagger hangs above the basin. A hidden panel beside the altar (Search DC 18) affords an escape route should the house be attacked.
12. Prisoner Cells.** Being a vampire, Randall requires a reliable supply of blood. In a pinch, he can avail himself of a barrel of preserving pine, but he prefers his meals fresh. This room has shackles on the floor that hold human commoners (usually vagrants or would-be burglars) until needed. A permanent silence spell ensures no untoward disturbances.
13. Upper Bedroom. This guest chamber is currently occupied by Ganzar Ulbann (male dwarf rogue 4/cleric 3), who serves as the priest for ceremonies to Vol. This room also has a hidden emergency escape route (Search DC 18).
14. Gallery. Randall’s personal treasure is stored in this room. He is an art collector and keeps his most precious acquisitions locked up. The door has a masterwork lock, and an alarm spell alerts the vampire to intruders.
15. Randall’s Chamber. Randall (male vampire human rogue 7) has his personal quarters here. They are completely windowless but opulently furnished. His coffin is piled with velvet cushions and occupies the center of the room. Bookshelves contain rare volumes and delicate art objects. A rich carpet covers the floor, and an elegant writing desk of exotic Xen’drik woods occupies one corner. On the desk is a crystal ball with telepathy for communicating with the Crimson Covenant.
The Blood of Vol draws Seekers of many differing origins and behaviors. Not all are equally committed to (or indeed, aware of) the Crimson Covenant or Vol herself. The spread of her philosophy has grown far beyond Vol’s ability to oversee directly, and she watches with interest as it grows and changes with each new Seeker who comes to the faith.
The Cult of Life: Despite its benevolent name, this subsect of the Blood of Vol is filled with some of the most dangerous Seekers in the world. Its members are known as “thieves of life,” and for good reason: The entire purpose of the cult is the pursuit of immortality, paid for with other living souls. Those at the highest levels of the cult are fully aware of their organization’s connection to Vol and often take orders directly from the Crimson Covenant. Neophyte members are kept ignorant of these truths until they have earned their place.
The Hornblade Clan: This confederation of orcs and goblinoids has grown from a small tribe into the single largest community of Seekers on Khorvaire in the time since the end of the Last War. Before the war, the Hornblades were a large orc tribe in western Khorvaire, but they were decimated by infighting with druid cousins who felt they had lost their spiritual way. The clan’s purpose was renewed by the return of a half-breed exile by the name of Janilya. After besting the former chieftain in mortal combat, she united the clan under the banner of Vol and made clear her vision for the future: The Hornblades would allow Seekers of other races to join the tribe, if their belief was strong enough. Since then, the clan’s ranks have swelled with new arrivals (mostly goblins and other orcs) who come to hear the word of their new prophet, to be a part of her vision of unity, and in the case of those found unworthy, to become ritual sacrifices for the good of the community.
The Keepers of Blood: Few cults have caused so large a rift in their parent faiths as have the Keepers. Some Seekers welcome them, while others view them as heretics of the worst order. The Keepers of Blood revere both the principles of Vol and the Dark Six god known as the Keeper. Most cultists do not actually believe in the Keeper as an entity but revere his alleged portfolio. Only by recognizing and revering both primordial aspects can they be assured of divinity or life everlasting. In many ways, they are the most conservative sect of the Blood of Vol.
Order of the Emerald Claw: Not so much a sect as a paramilitary branch of the faith, the Order of the Emerald Claw does the will of Vol herself. Agents of the Order operate not only in their home state of Karrnath but all across Khorvaire, where they carry out the orders of the Crimson Covenant. Some of the rank and file in the Order are unaware of their organization’s ties to the lich-queen, truly believing themselves to be the ostracized Karrnathi loyalists they portray to the outside world. Those in charge of cells or operations are faithful Seekers, doing work they believe is essential to furthering the Blood of Vol, and they would gladly die before spilling their secrets.
The Seekers of Vol are a strange lot in the eyes of most godfearing citizens of Khorvaire. Presented here is a Blood of Vol prestige class that, if commonly known, would add the term sinister to that notoriety. The entropomancer (appearing in Complete Divine) is another prestige class appropriate to this faith.
“Blood is life, and for me to know life everlasting, I must know the blood that flows within your veins.”
—Janilya Hornblade the Fearless, disciple of Vol
Every Seeker is fascinated by the twin mysteries of death and divinity. Not every believer seeks in the same ways, however. Some engage in exhaustive academic research, looking to uncover secrets hidden in long-forgotten lore. Others conduct experiments on both the living and the dead, hoping to discover a means to unite the two. Then there are those who seek to rip the secrets of life and death from the very souls of the living. These few Seekers are known as thieves of life. Like other Seekers, they long to understand the interplay between blood, death, and divinity; unlike their compatriots, they seek to harness personal power from that understanding, to startling and often gruesome effect. When the prize is immortality, there is precious little a thief of life will not do to grasp it.
BECOMING A THIEF OF LIFE
Almost all thieves of life begin as common rogues with an uncommon thirst for knowledge and experience, often leading them to multiclass. Some of the most accomplished thieves of life are rogue/clerics, although more martial-minded thieves of life might be rogue/barbarians or rogue/rangers. Nearly every ability score is useful to a thief of life: Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are vital to her martial success; Dexterity and Intelligence
to her skills; Wisdom and Charisma both influence a thief’s standing within her cult, as well as a number of her skills and abilities.
Skills: Heal 4 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 4 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks.
Special: Any nongood alignment, humanoid or monstrous humanoid, must be a member of the Blood of Vol, sneak attack +2d6.
As you advance in the thief of life class, you combine some familiar rogue talents with a host of strange new abilities. Many of your abilities apply only to living creatures, which limits your capabilities against constructs and undead, though you are resistant to many special attacks favored by undead.
THE THIEF OF LIFE
HIT DIE: D6
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||+0||+2||+2||+0 Lifesense (5 ft.)|
|2nd||+1||+3||+3||+0||Sneak attack +1d6|
|3rd||+2||+3||+3||+1||Lifesense (10 ft.)|
|5th||+3||+4||+4||+1||Immunity to fear, lifesense (15 ft.)|
|6th||+4||+5||+5||+2||Sneak attack +2d6|
|7th||+5||+5||+5||+2||Immunity to energy drain, lifesense (20 ft.)|
|9th||+6||+6||+6||+3||Immunity to death effects, lifesense (25 ft.)|
|10th||+7||+7||+7||+3||Sneak attack +3d6, steal immortality|
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level): Balance, Bluff, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Gather Information, Heal, Hide, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Move Silently, Open Lock, Profession, Search, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Spot, Tumble, Use Magic Device, Use Rope.
Lifesense (Ex): You first learn how to recognize the ebb and flow of life energy. You can sense the location ofliving creatures within 5 feet (as if you had blindsense), and can also determine the condition of creatures near death within this range (as if you were using the deathwatch spell).
At each odd-numbered level, the range of this ability expands by 5 feet.
Sneak Attack (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, you deal extra damage when you are flanking an opponent or at any time when the target would be denied its Dexterity bonus. This extra damage applies to ranged attacks only if the target is within 30 feet. See the rogue class feature, PH 50). The amount of extra damage dealt is 1d6 at 2nd level, and it increases by 1d6 for every four thief of life levels thereafter (at 6th and 10th).
Borrow Vigor (Su): Once you reach 4th level, you can keep a portion of the life-force of fallen foes for yourself. Anytime you reduce a living creature to –1 or fewer hp with a sneak attack, you gain temporary hit points equal to the creature’s HD. These hit points last for a maximum of 1 hour, and multiple quantities of temporary hit points gained from this ability do not stack. If you have an essentia pool, you also gain 1 temporary essentia point, which you can immediately invest in any essentia receptacle (even incarnum feats).
This essentia lasts for 1 hour; multiple uses of this ability do not stack. (See Magic of Incarnum for rules on using essentia.)
Immunity to Fear (Ex): By 5th level, your repeated exposure to death itself renders you incapable of feeling the emotion that so terrifies lesser mortals. You gain immunity to fear effects.
Immunity to Energy Drain (Ex): At 7th level, you gain immunity to energy drain effects.
Steal Vitality (Su): Starting at 8th level, you can steal the life energy of a dying creature to use as your own. Whenever you reduce a living creature to –10 or fewer hit points with a sneak attack, you draw all remaining vitality from its body as the creature’s soul departs. The body shrivels swiftly to a husk, every drop of blood within drying up in an instant.
You gain immunity to fatigue, exhaustion, and sleep effects for a number of hours equal to the creature’s HD. Multiple uses of this ability do not stack (use only the longer duration).
Immunity to Death Effects (Ex): At 9th level, you gain immunity to death effects.
Steal Immortality (Su): At 10th level, you can take advantage of a dying creature to (briefly) cheat death itself. This is the pinnacle of achievement for a disciple of Vol. Whenever you reduce a living creature to –10 or fewer hit points with a sneak attack, in addition to stealing its life energy (see Steal Vitality, above) you devour a small portion of its soul. The slain creature’s HD must equal or exceed your own for this power to take effect. This has no further ill effect on the slain creature, but you become effectively immortal for the next year: Your body does not age (delaying the onset of ability score penalties due to age, but not mental ability score improvements), and you need not eat or sleep (though rest might still be required to regain spells and similar abilities).
If you have an essentia pool, you also gain temporary essentia points equal to one-half the slain creature’s HD, which you can immediately invest in any essentia receptacle (even incarnum feats). This essentia lasts for 1 hour; multiple uses of this ability do not stack. (See Magic of Incarnum for rules on using essentia.)
Unlike with the steal vitality feature, any creature slain by this attack cannot be brought back to life except by means of a miracle, true resurrection, wish, or similar magic. Furthermore, you become instantly aware of any creature slain by you in this way returning to life (though you don’t necessarily know where the resurrection occurs).
PLAYING A THIEF OF LIFE
You might or might not be devoted to (or even aware of) the lich-queen Vol, but you are undoubtedly committed to stealing the secret of life everlasting for yourself. You have trained and studied for this opportunity, and you let nothing stand in your way. You might have goals outside this, and even beyond those of the Blood of Vol, but enlightened self-interest is the order of the day for a thief of life. Other people fit into one of two broad categories: fellows driven to seek immortality or pawns to further your own pursuit of it.
You are a dangerous foe in combat, especially with surprise on your side. Even at low levels, you have a potent sneak attack, and since many thief of life class features play off the sneak attack, it is your most effective combat tool. Your lifesense ability allows you to fight more effectively in the dark, so maneuvering melees into such situations can play to your strengths. Regardless of the lighting conditions, getting yourself into flanking position is a combat must.
At higher levels, you become increasingly able to resist harmful effects wielded by your enemies, from fear and energy drain to sleep and even death effects. At the culmination of your path, you gain the ability to extend your life essentially indefinitely—as long as a supply of helpless prey exists.
The thief of life is a demanding career path. It requires knowledge and skills outside the ordinary for the common rogue, and some hopefuls lack the patience to realize their dreams. Thankfully, you do not seek alone. The largest collection of thieves of life on Eberron forms a cabal known as the Cult of Life, a subsect of the Blood of Vol. The euphemistic name deflects fear and suspicion from the cult’s morally questionable activities. In the darkened halls of cult gatherings, master thieves of life train, educate, and test new Seekers.
You can pursue whatever avenues of study work best for you, but the Cult of Life values breadth of experience. A neophyte thief of life with something new or different to offer receives more favor from cult superiors than less interesting peers. Once you are able to arrest your own aging process, you become a mentor to neophyte thieves and take your place among the elite of the Cult of Life.
Few below this exalted rank are inducted into the true nature of the Blood of Vol. When your path culminates in the transformation to undead, you enter the true inner circle of the Cult of Life, answering to none but Vol herself.
As an active member of the Cult of Life, you can expect to receive aid from your colleagues—on occasion. As with a proper thieves’ guild, individual members are only as valuable as the risk they pose to the group, and should you get yourself into more trouble than you are worth, the cult has no qualms about cutting you loose.
The largest concentration of cult activity is in the Aundairian capital of Fairhaven. This outfit is led by one of the Cult of Life’s founding members, a man by the name of Torven d’Medani (LE male human rogue 5/monk 3/thief of life 10), formerly of House Medani. Thieves of life in Fairhaven who follow d’Medani’s edicts to the letter benefit from his considerable power and influence.
THIEVES OF LIFE IN THE WORLD
“These thieves are but rumor, to the best of my knowledge. They had better be… .”
—Bedesto the Gauntlet, dwarf paladin of Dol Dorn
Some of Vol’s greatest servitors are thieves of life. Many have insinuated themselves into positions of power and authority across Khorvaire, either at her direct request or by way of their superiors in the Cult of Life or the Order of the Emerald Claw. Above all, thieves of life are careful to avoid implicating themselves in their superiors’ activities—they would sooner take the fall for something unrelated than relinquish the secret of their fellowship. As a result, most leave false clues implicating other figures or groups.
Because their mandate is secret, few cult members achieve name recognition (at least not for being thieves of life). Within the Cult of Life, however, some figures have reached near-legendary status and serve as inspirations to those still advancing. In addition to Torven d’Medani, perhaps the most renowned thief of life ever to exist, the infamous include Sle’en the Ageless, a changeling prodigy raised from birth within the cult; Tzora the Black, an elf assassin famed for her betrayal of and subsequent flight from Aerenal; and the half-orc chieftain Janilya Hornblade, an outcast who returned to her clan not only as conqueror, but as the prophet who would eventually convert the entire clan to the Blood of Vol.
Most thieves of life are not aware of the true extent and goals of their organization. At the lowest level are those who find their own way onto this path. Such individuals typically serve neither goals nor interests beyond their own, and are typically neutral evil in alignment. Those thieves who are materially involved with active cults of Vol can be of any alignment (though lawful evil is common where the cult operates openly). They might or might not be aware of the religion’s overarching connections, depending on their value to and involvement with the Crimson Covenant. The most powerful thieves of life knowingly serve Vol, the Covenant, and their interests.
This includes almost everyone of 7th level or higher who is a member of the Cult of Life. Once a thief reaches this level of ability, she is bestowed the added title “dauntless” and is typically inducted into some truths of the Cult’s activities by her local superior. On reaching 10th level of the class, she achieves the exalted rank of “ageless.” For example, the head of cult affairs in Fairhaven is known as Torven the Ageless.
Many folk are familiar with the Blood of Vol, but few know of the thieves of life. Specific reactions depend on the individual cultist, many of whom specialize in dissembling or otherwise putting strangers at ease. An NPC who is aware of the cultist’s ties to the Blood of Vol reacts according to the prevailing attitude toward the sect. Worshipers of the Silver Flame, for example, would consider them part of a misguided and illegal religion, whether or not they have any specific knowledge about that individual cultist. Those who glimpse the thief of life’s class abilities in action are likely to react with extreme fear, distrust, or both.
THIEF OF LIFE LORE
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (religion) or bardic knowledge can research thieves of life to learn more about them. When a character makes a successful skill check or bardic knowledge check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs.
DC 10: A particular type of roguish operative combines special powers with a focus on stealth. The name thief of life is whispered in the dark.
DC 15: Forming a subcult of the Blood of Vol, thieves of life are both feared and renowned for their ability to bolster their own health by stealing life energy from their victims.
DC 20: The most powerful thieves of life can enter a state of quasi-immortality by consuming the souls of those they kill.
THIEVES OF LIFE IN THE GAME
Most of the time, player characters will never know they have encountered a thief of life. Such characters are in the business of charade—so adept at masquerading as ordinary rogues that they are usually mistaken for them. Should a PC suffer the effects of a thief’s steal vitality ability, however, or in the event that the PCs go up against a thief of sufficiently advanced level, the differences soon become apparent. Even so, all but the most learned of characters will still be at a loss to articulate what it is they have experienced.
Playing a thief of life is a roleplaying challenge. They are not necessarily evil, but they are bent on the pursuit of immortality, and their methods clearly bring them into conflict with certain character classes. Their combat effectiveness is undeniable, though, and the class offers many of the same attractions as does the rogue, with added benefits at the highest levels. Among parties of neutral or at least pragmatic characters, they make interesting PCs. The challenge lies in maintaining moral neutrality while progressing in the class.
The overall gestalt of the thief of life clearly links the class to the Blood of Vol in the Eberron setting, but it could be found in any campaign where rogues or the gods of death are influential. Adapting the class to other settings requires little more than changing some specific entry requirements.
One thief of life makes a terrifi c villain; a group of them is quite a challenge. Death is a fundamental principle of nature. If evil beings fi nd a way sidestep that eventuality— often by murdering and sacrificing sentient beings—heroic characters must step in to oppose them.
EL 10: Janilya was unpopular among the Hornblade Clan from an early age due to her mixed blood. Furthermore, she refused to condemn her human mother, who left her in the Hornblades’ care rather than risk the shame of raising her in a conservative human community. Janilya was eventually ostracized from the clan for her outspoken views, particularly her contempt for the gods. Her desire for self-determination soon landed her in a cult of Vol, which inducted her into its ways. After amassing substantial money and power, she returned to her former clan, murdered the chieftain before the assembled elders, and took control.
JANILYA HORNBLADE, THE FEARLESS (RAGING) CR 10
Female half-orc rogue 3/barbarian 2/thief of life 5
NE Medium humanoid (orc)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., lifesense 15 ft.; Listen +7, Spot +7
Languages Common, Orc
AC 14, touch 11, fl at-footed 11; Dodge, Mobility, uncanny dodge (+3 Dex, +3 armor, –2 rage)
hp 91 (10 HD)
Saves: Fort +13, Ref +10 (+11 against traps), Will +6
Speed 40 ft. (8 squares); Spring Attack
Attacks: Melee +1 greatsword of wounding +13/+8 (2d6+8/19-20 plus 1 Con against living creatures)
Ranged longbow +10/+5 (1d8/×3)
Base Atk +7; Grapple +12
Atk Options borrow vigor, rage 1/day (8 rounds), sneak attack +3d6
Combat Gear potion of cure moderate wounds
Abilities Str 20, Dex 16, Con 21, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 10
SQ trap sense +1, trapfi nding
Feats Dodge, feat:Iron Will, Mobility, Spring Attack
Skills Balance +6, Disable Device +6, Disguise +6, Heal +6, Hide +9, Jump +11, Knowledge (arcana) +4, Knowledge (religion) +4, Listen +7, Move Silently +9, Open Lock +7, Ride +5, Spot +7, Survival +5, Tumble +9
Possessions masterwork studded leather armor, longbow, +1 greatsword of wounding, amulet of health +2, gloves of Dexterity +2
When not raging, Janilya has the following changed statistics:
AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 13; Dodge, Mobility, uncanny dodge
hp 71 (10 HD)
Saves: Fort +11, Ref +10 (+11 against traps), Will +4
Attacks: Melee +1 greatsword of wounding +11/+7 (2d6+5 plus 1 Con against living creatures)
Base Atk +7; Grp +10
Abilities Str 14, Dex 16, Con 17, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 10
Skills Jump +9
The Blood of Vol in Sharn
The Blood of Vol is a religion that reveres the undead. In Breland—and even in much of Karrn— people associate the Blood of Vol with mad necromancers and armies of the dead. But as with the Church of the Silver Flame or the Sovereign Host, the majority of the people who worship the Blood of Vol are commoners—hardworking peasants and crafters who simply wish to be left alone to practice the faith of their fathers. The vampire lords and wizards of the Blood of Vol may seek to spread chaos across the world or to restore the Lost Mark, but the typical parishioner simply wants to do his duty, give blood on the holy days, and pray for the spirits of his ancestors who have been taken from this world.
The followers of Vol in Sharn know little about the true nature of the religion. They also believe in the existence of the gods of the Sovereign Host—and despise them. The core belief of the Sharn sect is that death is the greatest evil of all. There is no glorious afterlife, no rebirth; death is oblivion at best, and eternal torment for a soul taken by the Keeper. The gods cursed the world with mortality, but Vol has found a way to escape this curse. Fearing the power of Vol, the gods fled to the heavens, and today they do not walk the world. To the followers of Vol, the sentient undead are champions in the battle against death. The faithful believe that in time, the vampire lords will take the battle to the heavens and destroy the gods, and that when this is done there will be no more death. The regular giving of blood is a form of reverse communion—a spiritual sacrifice, showing the willingness of the community to support their champions and to give their lives to overcome death. As for mindless undead, the soul is all that matters to the followers of Vol and there is no taboo against raising the dead as zombies or skeletons; on the contrary, it allows those unjustly taken from the community to still serve it in some way.
While they believe in the righteousness of their cause, followers of Vol know better than to discuss their faith with outsiders, even with fellow Karrns. The vile gods have enslaved the world, and the followers of Vol know that most people will not listen to them. Some of the followers of Vol are actually of good alignment; these people are deeply opposed to violence, and refuse to participate in the killing of an innocent. Others believe that there are no innocents, and that those who choose to serve and believe in the gods of death deserve nothing better. It is these people who are usually secretly recruited to serve in the Order of the Emerald Claw.
The congregation of the hidden temple in the Graywall district are primarily peaceful followers of Vol. They provide shelter and passive assistance to undead or members of the Emerald Claw, but they themselves are not killers or necessarily evil—no more or less so than the inhabitants of any other district of Sharn.