Taras writes "Everyone knows of the cold, calculating, black-robed priests of Nerull who murder and assassinate dispassionately. But what of the cultists who revel in the slaughter, who kill not for money or politics or ideals or even religion but because something bestial inside of them calls out to them to do so? Well, here is one glimpse at such a cult dedicated to the Hater of All Life.
Author: Taras Guarhoth (email@example.com)
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
The Cult of the Bloody Hands
The Cult of the Bloody Hands had it's origin in the days of the Aerdi conquest of the southern lands, when certain Harashim (Flan) mystics and zealots would band together against their conquerors. Believing that their more benevolent gods had abandoned them, they turned to darker gods for support, such as Nerull, god of Death and Murder, and certain lesser known gods. The cult waged a secretive war against the Aerdi (and the Suel) for years, but it was ultimately futile, as the cult lacked support from their Harashim and other Flan kinsmen, and had no kind of organization.
Over the years, the southern lands were incorporated, and in many places intergrated, into Aerdi society. The Harashim and Aerdi gradually began to mix into one people, leaving the cultists further isolated. The cult began to turn it's back on all who did not follow their dark god, for as time wore on, the worship of all but Nerull and his servitor dwindled to nonexistance. At the same time as this was happening, they began to accept non-pureblood Flan into their ranks, although many cults are still dominated by Flan, if not still exclusively Flan.
Today, the core of the cult is made up of the descendants of those ancient Harashim mystics, who are devoted totally to the cause of Nerull and his servitor, while the rest of the membership is generally composed of jaded members of the aristocracy who are looking for a new thrill or those who seek power from the knowledge that the cult has to offer. There are still few of these cults around, hidden in remote places in the countryside, where they will often terrorize and secretly rule remote villages.
What sets the Cult of the Bloody Hands apart from other Nerullian cults is the entity known as Shirat. This creature is a servitor of Nerull, and the cult follows this dark being in their service of Nerull.
He of the Bloody Hands, The Huntsman
Lesser Power of Tartarus (Carceri), NE
Domain Name: None
Foes: None specifically, although most gods are opposed to him
Symbol: A skull with a bloody handprint on it
Worshippers Align.: Any evil
Shirat appears as a seven foot tall Flan man with deep bronze skin and black hair. Although bearing handsome features, his form is repulsive, as his hands are covered in the blood of others, leaving bloodstains on anything he touches. He wears no clothing or armor, and carries no weapons. Instead, he paints his body with human blood, the exact design changing each time, although he always bears a skull painted upon his chest.
He is a cold, uncaring being, with no regard for life. He relishes in slaughtering others with his bare hands, digging his fingers into their flesh to pull out the internal organs of his victims after first hunting and chasing them like they were animals. Only rarely does he appear on Oerth, and then only on the night of the 11th of Goodmonth, when both Luna and Celene are new. On that night in the rare year that he does manifest, he may appear in one of the sanctuaries of the Bloody Hands, and personally perform the ceremonial sacrifices before heading out to lead a hunt, killing all he comes across.
At other times, Shirat can be found in the domain of his master, hunting down and killing those mortals foolish enough to enter into Nerull's realm.
Clergy: Specialty Priests
Clergy's Alignment: NE
Turn/Command Undead: Command
The Cult of the Bloody Hands has no formal structure. Each group of cultists is independent of the others, and many maintain little or no contact with the others. A single priest leads each cult, with any other priests present in that cult acting as assistants to the high priest. Power struggles between the priests are not uncommon, and can often lead to the sacrifice of a priest upon the altar. Such is the price for failing to plot and scheme properly.
The sanctuaries of the Bloody Hands are located in remote areas, often in natural caverns or abandoned crypts or cellars. Inside each temple of the cult, there will be a cell located outside the main sanctuary where sacrifices and prisoners are kept until they are needed. The sanctuary itself is often kept very poorly lit, with only a few isolated candles to provide illumination to the dark chamber. In the center will be an altar of a rusty colored stone, often stained with blood. Before the altar is located a deep, lightless pit, which in some sanctuaries leads down into unknown and uncharted catacombs and caverns. The remains of the sacrifices are often tossed down the pit to dispose of them.
Some of the sacrifices are kidnapped beforehand by the cultists, but most are chosen at random on the nights they are needed, cultists hunting them down and then dragging them back to their sanctuary to slaughter them. A few cults, considered somewhat heretical by the others, not only hunt their victims, but then slaughter them where they were caught and feast upon the corpse.
Dogma: Nothing is more thrilling than to chase down another man like he were a wild beast and then rip into his flesh and kill him. Nothing else can compare to the fear and terror in your victim's eyes as you take his life from him with your bare hands. The power it gives you over others only makes it that much sweeter.
Day-to-Day Activities: Generally, most cultists and priests try to at least appear to lead normal lives when not actively engaged in cultish ceremonies. Those that don't generally end up getting caught, which usually leads to death at the hands of an Inquisition or being hung by the local lord for murder. Depending on who manages to get him first. Certain cultists may hire themselves out as assassins, although this is generally rare.
Holy Days/Important Ceremonies: The nights when Luna is new are lesser ceremonial days for the cult, and generally don't call for a sacrifice. These lesser ceremonies are usually brief, and don't occur in months when Celene is new. When Celene is new, a much larger ceremony is performed, complete with a human sacrifice. The largest of these is on the 11th of Goodmonth, which requires multiple sacrifices, in the hopes of proving their piety to their dark master and bring his foul servitor to their sanctuary. In addition to these main ceremonies, a special ceremony, which relies on kidnapped individuals rather than hunting someone down at random, is performed afterwards when inducting new members into the cult or confirming a new priest. These involve another human sacrifice, with the new initiate or priest having the honor of killing the victim.
Major Centers of Worship: The Cult of the Bloody Hands is confined to the lands of South Province and the Iron League, with occasional cults springing up in the southern fringes of the Great Kingdom proper. There are no large or openly known temples of the cult even within these lands. It is suspected by some that there is a major center of the cult in the lands south of Medegia, though.
Affiliated Orders: None, although the cultists will usually cooperate with other worshippers of Nerull.
Priestly Vestiments: Priests typically wear black or rusty-red robes while leading their ceremonies, often with a scarlet handprint embroidered on the chest. Some cults prefer to use white robes that have been "dyed" with human blood. In these cults, the dying of the robe is part of the induction ceremony of the new priest. On the night of the 11th of Goodmonth, though, no vestiments are worn by the priests, and their only decoration is human blood painted upon their bodies.
Adventuring Garb: No restriction is placed on what is worn outside of ceremonies. A few brazen members of the cult may wear the bloody hand symbol on their shield or breastplate, but, these are the same cultists who are usually caught quickly.
Cultists of the Bloody Hands
(Specialty priests of Nerull/Shirat)
Requirements: Strength 13
Prime Req.: Strength/Wisdom
Weapons Allowed: Dagger, Knife, Great Sickle (treat as hook-fauchard), Staff, Staff-Sling. Some truly devout members of the cult shun the use of weapons, emulating Shirat, and no weapons are allowed during the sacrificial hunts.
Armor Allowed: Any. Again, some truly devout members of the cult shun armor, emulating Shirat, and no armor is allowed during the sacrificial hunts.
Major Spheres: All, Combat, Healing (rev), Necromantic (rev), Sun (rev)
Minor Spheres: Charm, Divination, Plant, Animal
Magic Items Allowed: Any allowed to priests
Required Proficiencies: Hunting
Bonus Proficiencies: Tracking
Only humans may become cultists of the Bloody Hands.
At first level, a priest is surprised only on a roll of one.
At third level, a priest can cast Darkness, 15' Radius (Wiz 2) once per day.
At fifth level, a priest can cast Hold Person (Pr 2) once per day.
At seventh level, a priest can cast Evard's Black Tentacles (Wiz 4) once per day.
At twelth level, a priest can cast Destruction (reversed Resurrection) once per week.
Sample Sanctuary of the Bloody Hands
Some Spells of the Bloody Hands Cult
Note: Forgotten Gods, Nerull, Second Edition, Sud Graufult"