Hell of a Summer
Blood of Vol
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 who bore the Mark of Death, created from the arcane union of an elven mother and a green dragon father.
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.
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 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 Covenant chosen 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 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.