Blood of Vol
|Blood of Vol|
|Alignment||3E: Lawful Evil
5E: Lawful Neutral
|Portfolio||Undeath, immortality, blood, destiny, obedience.|
|Domains||3E: Death, Deathbound, Evil, Law, Necromancer
4E: Death, Undeath
5E: Arcana, Death, Life
The Blood of Vol is essentially the general faith that many necromancers in Eberron adhere to, focusing primarily on the divinity within the self rather than believing in any particular gods. Cheating Dolurrh via becoming undead, is just one of those great feats.
Its believers claim that all religion is a delusion (or that the gods are cruel) and the the only thing that is indeed real (or worth worshipping) is what exists in the material world and whatever afterlife lies beyond it. Blood is the true proof of divinity to them and thus with the power of blood do they believe that they can potentially become literal gods. Those beings that manage to cheat death, though usually revered for their powers to defy the natural order, are also considered no longer eligible for this perfection.
The religion known as the Blood of Vol is a bastardized version of the beliefs of the elves of Farlnen (also known as the Bloodsail elves) in the Lhazaar principalities. The elves of Farlen themselves are exiles of Aerenal, cast out because of their allegiance to the Line of Vol and their greatest Scion, Erandis Vol.
Once upon a time in Aerenal, House Vol was an elf Dragonmarked House with the now-lost Dragonmark of Death. The line of Vol had differening religious beliefs than most elves on Aerenal. Most Aerenal elves were followers of the Priests of transition - necromancers that used positive energies from the plane of Irian and the devotion of mortal to create deathless. The line of Vol prefered to use negatively energy based necromancy from Mabar as a means of immortality because they were not dependant on the devotion of living elves to sustain themselves - they could take what they needed from the world of the living to survive. The priests of transition, now known as the undying court, claimed that the mere existence of negatively charged undead slowly killed the world. The Line of Vol viewed this as a blantant political ploy to undermine their elders. The appearance of the mark of death exacerbated the conflict between the two groups, so the Line of Vol moved to what is now the island of Farlen.
Throughout the history of Aerenal, dragons would periodically wage war upon the elves. Partially in an attempt to put an end to the wars between elves and dragons, and partially to refine the mark of death, the matriarch of House Vol and a cabal of dragons led by a green dragon named Emerald Claw decided to create a breeding program to transfer the dragonmark to dragons. The culmination of this breeding program was Erandis Vol, a half dragon with the mark of death. The line of Vol and Emerald Claw's cabal presented this half-dragon with a mark as a means to end the war. Instead, the discovery of this child's existence pissed off both elf and dragon so royally that they joined forces to eradicate House Vol for birthing such an abomination - along with the much more important fact that Erandis had manifested the most powerful dragonmark in existence, an Apex mark of death far more powerful than even a Syberis Dragonmark. Desperate to preserve the only thing she had, the matriarch of Vol decided that the only way to save her lovechild was to turn her into a lich.
Though the rest of House Vol and the Mark of Death they carried was eradicated, Erandis herself (who's dragonmark no longer functions) fled as a teenage lich. The surviving supporters of the line of Vol were allowed to survive in Farlen and continue their traditional beliefs, and a bastardized version of their beliefs and practices became the foundation for the Blood of Vol. The story of what happened to the line of Vol itself was garbled through the ages, and the nascent Blood of Vol used a misremembered version of history as a story important to their faith - Vol had found a way to defeat death, so the gods destroyed her because she could threaten their rule. Thus the Blood of Vol formed, and Erandis, now known as Lady Illmarrow, later used the faith to further her goals.
Not Your Average Evil CultEdit
So, with the blood magic thing, and the undead everywhere, and the faith's popularity with necromancers, you're thinking that the Blood of Vol is your classic evil cult, right? Well... yes and no - subverting alignment cliches like that was kind of Eberron's thing.
See, thing is, whilst Vol herself is evil, and she is using the religion to muster dupes, the average member of the church is very much not evil. After all, it's an observable fact in Eberron that Dolurrh, the plane of the dead where almost every soul goes upon death, is a really shitty place; it's a dreary, misty limbo where the souls of the dead slowly lose their memories and then ultimately fade away into nothing. It's not exactly an evil reaction to learn this and decide "nope, what else is there?" And the Blood's relationship with the undead is very different to, say, the Whispering Way: unlike your standard necromancy cult, the Blood of Vol does not worship undeath or pursue it as their goal. They have a necro-utilitarian viewpoint, believing the bodies of the dead are empty shells with no particular holiness inherent to them - which is, after all, a reasonable view when you know the souls of the dead are dissolving into nothing in Dolurrh - and thus animating corpses as Walking Dead is just creating a tool, one that can potentially save a lot of lives or effort. Free-willed undead who are loyal to the Blood of Vol are viewed as sainted martyrs; the aim of the Blood of Vol is to achieve true eternal life, and undeath, with its myriad losses of the subtle aspects of life (like enjoying pleasure), is seen as a poor substitute. So, the sapient undead of the faith are viewed with equal parts respect and pity; they have cheated death, but sacrificed life, and thusly cut themselves off from achieving true divinity. They are respected for having the courage to damn themselves so they can continue to offer wisdom, guidance and protection to their living flock, but the whole point of the Blood's teachings is to NOT end up like them. Sapient undead NOT affiliated with the church are seen as the potential predators and threats that they are - while they are aware that not all sapient undead are evil and might give some sapient undead not affiliated with the church the benefit of the doubt, they're not idiots and won't hesitate to destroy them if they endanger the community. One interesting point is the fact that Erandis Vol's dragonmark no longer works because she is undead - this fact is likely the origin for their belief that Divinity is in the blood and that undead can not become truly divine.
So, yeah, they're creepy and they're spooky, but they're very much not evil - in fact, their underlying philosophy is surprisingly positive and optimistic, teaching that life is sacred and all who live hold the spark of divinity. Vol herself and her immediate underlings are exploiting the church, but the Blood of Vol itself is not evil. Even back in 3e, it was slapped with a "Lawful Evil" alignment mostly because all necromancy spells carried the Evil descriptor, and even though Eberron stated that church alignment & faithful alignment didn't have to be the same, that meta-rule still stuck.
The Various SectsEdit
As many people don't know of Vol or the Crimson Covenant, or are loyal to them, the spread of the faith has outgrown Vol's direct ability to oversee it. Though she does watch the sects, interested in the growth and changes brought by other seekers.
The Cult of LifeEdit
The thieves of life, as the members are called, are some of the most dangerous seekers in the world. They also seek everlasting life, but they pay for it by absorbing other peoples souls, or fragments of them. The higher-ranking members know of Vol and the Crimson Covenant, and even take orders from them, with neophytes kept in the dark until they earn their place.
Originally a small tribe in Western Khorvaire, they were decimated fighting against their druidic cousins, until Janilya, a half-orc exile returned and slew the previous chieftain. She then declared the clan to be loyal to Vol, and that they would accept other seekers as members, if their faith was strong enough. The clan is now one of the largest communities of seekers, mainly comprise of orcs and goblinoids, with its members following the prophet Janilya and her vision for the future. Those who are found unworthy, end up as sacrifices for the good of the clan.
The Keepers of BloodEdit
The most divisive of sects, sometimes welcomed, sometimes killed as heretics. Along with following the principles of Vol, they follow the portfolio of The Keeper, claiming that by recognizing and revering both primordial aspects can they be assured of divinity or life everlasting.
Order of the Emerald ClawEdit
Originally a well-respected knightly order within Karrnath, they were disgraced and declared extremists and terorists. Their true loyalty lies with Erandis d'Vol, with the higher ranked members aware that everything they do is for her, while the lower ranked members merely believe that they are Karrnathi loyalists, ostracized by outside forces. They act as Blood of Vol's paramilitary branch, operaring in cells and fulfilling missions given to them by the Crimson Covenant.
Not exactly part of the cult but related to it, this is the culture Erandis herself grew up on. Although her family was eradicated, their other allies were allowed to be exiled, and have preserved their necromantic traditions in part of the Lhazaar Principalities.