The Church of the Exquisite Blade
Alas, people like to believe, that they can assure entry to the green vales of the High kingdom regardless of the actions of this life. People like to believe the Lie.
Within the Temple of the Green Frontier, the world weary, the downtrodden, the broken, can cast off their weary coil and join their forefathers in the halls of glory.
The truth is sad, for those who perish on the blade do not leave this world in the manner they hoped. For the blade is the work of the fell god Krunuth, and the souls become his playthings.
Krunuth the Fell, The Great Manipulator. The pantheon of the people is a failing one, for Krunuth’s corruption has extended to his siblings - now lesser godlings, who have become as hopeless as their people.
That said, there is a internal strength in the people such that only a portion of the masses seek their end at the Temple, however that portion is still sufficient to grant Krunuth ample resources to form his army and power his magics that further his deception.
The sword, the Tooth of Krunuth, is a long, heavy, two-handed sword with a slightly flamboyant blade. It is gleaming sliver and has had enchantments further placed upon it to glow brilliantly when swung, and when a person is slain by it.
The sword is linked to a great throne located in a valley in the lands he controls, as is Krunuth. The sword came into Krunuth's possession after he slew a foolish hero who somehow made his way into the Nether Realms. Intrigued by its vampiric nature, and looking for an advantage over his brother gods, he infused the blade with divine power and created the link to the throne.
The Paladinhood of The Blade
His deception is strong enough that an entire order of Paladins, carry out his will. There are three tiers to the order, the 1st being the Jubilants the ones with the strongest idealism and great nobility, the second tier are the Introspects whose abilities have shifted more towards themselves and the third, the Knowing, who know the true face of their god and have blackened hearts.
It is the Knowing and Introspects that wield the Blade, the Tooth of Krunuth, though only his priesthood knows the blade by that name. They take shifts dispatching the supplicants, and the bodies are taken down beneath the temple to be cast into the River of Cleansing.
The paladins of all three stripes have powers granted to them, a small tithe of the energies collected through the Blade. At least for the Jubilants the deception has been complete and their powers appear holy and good. The Introspects, more experienced and streetwise have subdued abilities, while those of the Knowing are black and fell(1).
There is a valley within the kingdom where his True Children(2) are molded and live in their fashion. Krununth is not the creator he wants to be, and his children are terribly flawed and varied in their forms. He has bound the remnants of multiple souls into many of his children, and the results are chimeric and schizophrenic. Their forms are as varied as his whims. It is in this valley where the lives drawn by the sword are channeled, into a throne on which Krunuth sits. This channeling is enabled by the Black Heart of Krunuth, a plate-sized black opal set into the back of the seat.
The throne avails any who sit upon it the ability to shape the souls most recently collected with a thought- the unused ones swirl about the throne as ghostly visages.
Destroying the stone is possible, though requires use of magic or magic weapons of the highest order, though anyone with such power coming within a mile of the throne will alert Krunuth.
The throne lies within a vast, ornate Cathedral, built from silver-streaked red granite, and well guarded by both Krunuth’s Children and the Knowing.
As gods go, Krunuth is fairly weak, rated perhaps as demigod, and mortals of sufficient power may be able to temporarily defeat him through force of arms(3). This task is made more difficult by his legions of the Knowing and his devoted children. Krununth manifests himself within his throne room as an overlarge warrior with gleaming white glassy armor, and a smoky replica of his sword, whose passage through the air leaves a trail of damaged reality. Only weapons and magic of the highest order can injure him. He cannot currently manifest himself physically beyond a few hundred feet of the throne. Krununth is able to use available souls to aid him in combat, forming them into fresh Children.
Perhaps the best approach to affect his destruction would be to first neutralize his sword , either by destroying it (a herculean task), or at stopping the flow of victims (equally herculean).
In his now weakened form, further subterfuges such as turning key members of his priesthood could be effective.
Krunuth is not looking at the long term. He hates the people who follow his and his siblings pantheon, their forms disgust him and he sees them as a mockery. If he could, he would slay the entire population in a heartbeat and remold the souls into forms pleasing to him. But for now at least, the only conduit available to him is the sword, and the mortal hands that bare it. He is actively seeking magics to duplicate his sword, or to otherwise slay and collect mortal essence, though to this point he and his minions have been unsuccessful.
Notes:While Krurunth was able to increase the weapons power and link it to the throne, it needs to be noted that Krunuth is not capable of creating anything from scratch. Enhance or modify, yes, but creation - even that of a mundane sort, is beyond him, and so he must use others.
Campaign Use/Plot ideas
A player could start as a paladin of the Blessed blade, for by some definitions of good, willful self sacrifice is acceptable. That said, they will be able to keep their powers even by holding to this central ‘belief’. Over time they may find that there are in fact, no consequences for ethical transgressions, which may provide a hint to the true situation. As they progress, they may find themselves drawn into the Introspects, and potentially into the Knowing. What they do once they Know remains to be seen.
The Lost Soul
For some reason, the PCs need to commune with a dead person via magic. However, that person has fallen to the Blade and the magic is ineffective. Research and/or additional magic leads them to the Valley, and if they wish to recover the fallen, or interrogate his spirit, they will need to travel to there and discover the horrors within.
(1) References to Paladins herein are assuming a AD&D/D&D oriented paladin, with strict restrictions on ethics and morality.
The different orders are not defined by levels, but by their alignments. All three remain Lawful as they adhere to the Church's strict hierarchy and rules. The Jubilants are good, and retain powers typical for paladins (though careful study by other powers of good might find something amiss) - their powers are fed largely by their own faith. The Introspective lose their abilities (if any) most associated with goodness (turning undead, protection from evil, etc). The Knowing become Blackguards/Anti-paladins with the exception of the lawful alignment component.
(2) Krunuth's Children can be monsters of any desired power level, with their appearance and physical attack forms altered in bizarre and unnatural ways. AD&D Hordlings would be a good fit, if available. So would monsters drawn from Greek mythos (chimera, hydra, centaurs, etc), again twisted further in some way.
(3) Krununth cannot be killed on this plane of existence but destruction of his physical form will banish him to the Nether realms for many years. Worse for him is that all of his followers will find any magic they draw from him severed, in most case destroying the faith that sustains him. His defeat may also allow his brother gods some opportunity to recover their status.
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