Monks of the Long Death
By Rand Sharpsword
Ed Greenwood and Jason Carl
Rand Sharpsword, collector of bits of travel and geographical information, brings you further details about the Silver Marches area. Rand provides these to supplement the information found in the Silver Marches.
Monks of the Long Death
Though the organization known as the Monks of the Long Death is strongest in Thay, it does have monasteries in several other parts of Faerun, including the Silver Marches. Some two dozen members of the order dwell in a hidden stronghold built long ago by unknown hands in the Turnstone Hills, not far from where the pass is blocked by a gigantic landslide. From here the monks pursue their one abiding interest: death.
These monks seek for the secrets of life by studying death. It is the condition of being dead that concerns them most, and not what lies beyond: The afterlife holds little interest for them. Their laboratories are full of decaying, dying, and dead animal and plant specimens that they study with detached interest; they frequently purchase rare specimens that they cannot obtain easily themselves from adventurers and merchants. But such studies are only part of the monks' daily life: They seek to understand death as it pertains especially to intelligent living beings.
To this end, they exhume corpses from crypts and graveyards, and then they transport the corpses to their monastery. There they examine the cadavers in their well-stocked laboratory and observe them as they decompose. They also -- and it is for this that they are most reviled and feared -- purchase living slaves and put them to death, slowly, recording their observations and asking the perishing slaves questions about their fatal experience. Slaves are hard to come by in the Silver Marches, however, because Lady Alustriel and her confederations condemn the practice. The order has been obliged to obtain its living specimens by other means, such as abducting them from outlying farmsteads and poorly-defended hamlets in the dead of night. The monks suffer no moral qualms about these deeds: Death is the most natural thing in the world, from their perspective, and to expire in service to its principle is the most profoundly holy experience any living being can hope to enjoy. It is for this reason that the monks themselves do not fear death, and while they may study the dead, they do not seek that state themselves.
Most of the order's members are either scholars who share mutual fascination with and worship of death and dying, or clergy who worship one of the deities concerned with death. Some of the monks consider themselves to be nothing less than visionaries whose work will pave the way for a better future for all Faerun: When death is truly understood, it can be harnessed and used as a tool for the betterment of all, or so they rationalize to themselves. Others who take the Vows of Death could not possibly care less about anything other than increasing their personal measure of understanding about their chosen subject.
The Monks of the Long Death are easily recognized by their pale skin and gaunt features. They eat little, and they spend most of their time inside their monasteries, in crypts and graveyards, and other dark places where there is little natural light. They affect the trappings of death in their garb, wearing long, dark robes and shroudlike hooded cloaks to hide their features. Though fearful of those who do not understand them and who might seek to thwart their studies, they can be civil hosts if approached by learned folk who offer to share knowledge or wisdom. Their narrow vision and single-mindedness makes them dull hosts, however, and the rigid structure of their society seems quite stifling to outsiders.
High Crypt Information
The Abbot of the High Crypt, as their base in the Silver Marches is called, is Seyjayanus (LE male human Mnk8/Ftr4). This enigmatic man embodies the mystique of the warrior-scholar, and, like many cast in that mold, he harbors a plan that he has not yet shared with those he leads. Seyjayanus believes that the mere study and understanding of individual deaths is not enough: He is convinced that the only way to truly serve the core principles of death is to study it on a grand scale.
Encounters with the Monks of the Long Death in the Silver Marches are likely to be with grave robbers, crypt breakers, or slave purchasers who will not take kindly to being discovered. The monks try to avoid moving openly among the general populace for fear of retribution fueled by misunderstanding. They are quite prepared to defend themselves if attacked.
Plots and Rumors
Deity Ties: Kelemvor believes the Long Death to be his enemy, while Velsharoon is attempting to actively sway the monks to his service. Recently, a former monk of the High Crypt left her brethren in favor of worshiping Kelemvor. Before she died at the hands of her fellows, she gave the plans to their temple in the Silver Marches to a couple of adventurers, mercenaries, merchants, and travelers. She did this in the hopes that someone would go in well prepared to face the monks and destroy their numbers in the Silver Marches. Will someone step up to the challenge?
Seyjayanus's Plot: Currently Seyjayanus is formulating a plan that will result in the mass deaths of thousands of citizens in the Silver Marches so that he and his monks can observe the process and its results. It is his desire that the orc hordes of King Obould ravage as much of the area as they possibly can, and to that end he is considering the best way to help the orc lord attack and destroy the cities of the confederation. Encounters may occur if travelers or adventurers happen upon monks who are engaged in discussions with King Obould's forces concerning the best methods of emerging victorious from a war against the Silver Marches.