Contest of Wills
Lord of the Dead
Kelemvor (pronounced KELL-em-vor), formerly Kelemvor Lyonsbane, also known as the Lord of the Dead and Judge of the Damned, is the god of death and the dead, and master of the Crystal Spire in the Fugue Plane. In his mortal days, Kelemvor was a skilled mercenary, with the heart of a noble paladin, concealed under rude manners and thwarted by his mysterious family curse.
Fair yet cold, Kelemvor is the god of death and the dead—the most recent deity to hold this position, following in the footsteps of Jergal, Myrkul, and Cyric. Unlike these other deities, whose rule as gods of the dead made the afterlife an uncertain and fearful thing, Kelemvor urges knowledge that death is a natural part of life and should not be feared as long as it is understood.
The death clergy as they are known have many duties, most involve tending to the last wishes of the dying and provide burial services to those who die alone. They also set out to cure diseases and defend people from monsters so that folk do not die before their time. Their final and debatably most important task is the destruction of undeath in all its various forms as it is an affront to Kelemvor. Elite priests of Kelemvor are known as Doomguides. Servants of Kelemvor are usually clad in somber gray vestments and brandish hand-and-a-half swords, or Bastard Sword.
- Most Solemn Order of the Silent Shroud
An organization of gravediggers, embalmers, and other cemetary workers and crafters. Those of this order identify each other with a series of secret signs. Their task is to keep the church informed of undead sightings and gravesite desecrations.
- Eternal Order
This recently established knightly order’s purpose is to hunt and destroy powerful undead. They develop powerful undead-fighting powers by sacrificing other paladin abilities.
Before his ascension to godhood Kelemvor was a human fighter named Kelemvor Lyonsbane who was best known for his association with the adventurers Adon, Cyric, and Midnight, the latter two of which also later became deities. Inwardly sensitive and kind-hearted, Kelemvor nonetheless exhibited a gruff and dark-mooded exterior as a way of coping with the unusual curse which had befallen his family.
Kelemvor was born to Kendrel Lyonsbane and Cyndril Lyonsbane, of whom he was the fourth and last son. Cyndril, for whom it had been ten years since her last child, died giving birth to Kelemvor, for which Kendrel would later blame his son. Even without this burden of guilt on his shoulders life would not have been easy for Kelemvor, who was constantly expected to meet the high standards set by both his father, a crippled war veteran and military advisor, and elder brothers, who, by the time Kelemvor was eight, were already forging their own legends.
Contrary to his father’s desires, however, Kelemvor demonstrated an affinity for artistic pursuits and beauty, developing a deep fondness for his sensitive teacher, Tannith. When Kelemvor was ten his father decided he had tolerated Kelemvor’s inaction long enough, deciding to take full responsibility for Kelemvor’s education so as to ensure he followed the martial path chosen for him. Kendrel discharged Tannith and beat her senseless along with a group of friends, leaving her for dead. When Kelemvor learned of this weeks later the hate for his father that would late haunt him began to well up inside of him.
This righteous fury was channeled by the young boy into martial skill, making him a deadly warrior much to the delight of his father, who failed to recognize the source of Kelemvor’s power. It would not be long before Kendrel came to realize the truth, however. When Kelemvor was thirteen he met a beautiful girl two years his senior named Lilianna. Filled with joy and a love for Kelemvor she began to melt the younger boy’s cool exterior, reminding him of his first crush Tannith. When Kendrel discovered this affair he sought once again to end what he considered a distraction to Kelemvor’s education and assaulted Lilianna, beating her. When Kelemvor came upon them he leapt to Lilianna’s defense but was knocked aside.
As Kelemvor rose to his feet the hidden curse within him manifested, transforming him into an adult panther. In his new form he tore his father apart as well as the two guards that leapt to the man’s defense. Lilianna, once she realized the terrifying beast still had Kelemvor’s mind and soul, helped her lover escape from Lyonsbane Keep and into the woodlands surrounding it, where he dwelled for some time, coming to terms with his new form.
The Lyonsbane curse
After the death of his father, Kelemvor wandered the woods outside Lyonsbane Keep, shifting back and forth between human and panther form. Though at first he had been able to control himself Kelemvor soon found himself, even in his human form, to be little more than a savage beast. After six months time, however, Kelemvor regained control of his mind, returning to human form with full possession of his senses. It was shortly after this that Burne Lyonsbane, Kelemvor’s uncle, discovered Kelemvor, for whom he’d been searching. Unlike Kendrel, Burne was understanding of Kelemvor’s sensitive side and had pitied his nephew throughout the years. Once he and his adventurer companions discovered Kelemvor he took the young man in and explained to him the nature of his family’s curse.
The curse of the Lyonsbanes had been passed down for generations within Kelemvor’s family and had its roots in the actions of the greedy mercenary Kyle Lyonsbane, who during a battle abandoned his wounded companion, a sorceress, on the battlefield to die so that he could plunder an enemy’s stronghold. As vengeance the sorceress cursed Kyle and his family, transforming them into a strange variety of werepanther that would transform into their beastly form if ever they did something purely for profit. However, the curse ended up backfiring and instead of remaining with Kyle and his ancestors it was visited on the mercenary’s children. Furthermore, the cause of the transformation was gradually reversed and by the time, five generations later, Kelemvor was born it now made it impossible for any Lyonsbane to perform an act without asking for a reward, lest they transform into the beast.
The result was a long line of mercenaries in the Lyonsbane family, and as family members grew old it become more dangerous for those who lived around them, since the patriarchs could no longer remember if a reward had been offered or not. Thus it became the responsibility of every Lyonsbane to slay their father when they reached the age of fifty.
Life as a mercenary
Kelemvor, with the help of his uncle, managed to adjust to the curse that he had regrettably inherited, however and joined Burne’s company to become yet another sellsword. For three years Kelemvor was able to keep his bestial side under control, and though forced into a path he had not chosen for himself and had never wanted, became fond of Burne and his other companions. Still, Kelemvor longed for and dreamed of the life he could have had were it not for his curse and the cruelty of his father.
Upon his eighteenth birthday, however, all of Kelemvor’s new life came crashing down around him. In an ambush, Burne’s party was slaughtered to a man by Kelemvor’s eldest brother Guntharr. Filled with rage for his uncle’s death Kelemvor awoke the beast within him again and tore both Guntharr and his companions to pieces except those who managed to flee. Horrified and disheartened Kelemvor fled once again, though he eventually returned to the mercenary lifestyle.
More bitter than ever, Kelemvor became resentful of the emptiness in his involuntary career as a sellsword and of the incompetent superiors who hired him. Though Kelemvor could have taken a leadership position for himself he never did, haunted by memories of his father’s corruption by power. Still, Kelemvor dreamed of a day when he could perform heroic deeds free from the curse, becoming a true hero as in those stories he had read when he was a child in the Lyonsbane castle.
After a time, Kelemvor left his employers behind, pulled by an unexplainable urge to search for something, a prize to give his life meaning but whose form escaped him. It was shortly after this, that he met up with Midnight and Adon of Sune. During the events of the Time of Troubles the curse was removed by the god of strife, Bane. Together with Midnight and Adon he recovered the lost Tablets of Fate, bringing them to Waterdeep, to return them to Ao.
In a final confrontation with Myrkul on top of Blackstaff Tower, Kelemvor was killed by still-mortal Cyric, wielding the sword Godsbane, who would later go on to become god of death in place of Myrkul. However, Kelemvor’s existence was not ended then and Godsbane, which was actually the god Mask in disguise, siphoned away Kelemvor’s eternal spirit, hiding it from the new Lord of Death. For ten years Kelemvors spirit lived in this pocket plane, while Cyric searched for him, bent on destroying his former companion for good.
Revolt against Cyric
Ten years after the Time of Troubles, after Cyric murdered Bhaal and ascended to godhood, the first thing he wanted to accomplish was to have Kelemvor’s soul so that he could gain an advantage over the new Mystra, his most hated rival, and whose portfolio over Magic he coveted. However, for ten years, Cyric and his church were unable to find Kelemvor’s soul, every divination and spell they tried yielded nothing. Cyric suspected that there were traitors within his own church who fostered Kelemvor’s soul. He later launched the Second Banedeath in 1368 DR, unleashing his Inquisition on Zhentil Keep, Yûlash, Darkhold, Teshwave, and the Citadel of the Raven to cleanse all Zhent holdings of non-Cyricist priests. Cyric also released Kezef the Chaos Hound from Pandemonium, and commanded it to trace Kelemvor’s soul. Kezef ended up being trapped again by the God of Thieves.
Kelemvor’s soul, was absorped into Cyric’s sentient sword, Godsbane, in the moment he was killed on top of Blackstaff Tower. The sword was actually Mask, the God of Thieves in guise, who planned to bring Cyric’s downfall and gain Cyric’s portfolio over lies. Mask used Kelemvor’s soul to gain the cooperation of Mystra, all the while planning a revolt in the City of Death against Cyric. With the help of Mystra, Torm, Oghma, and Cyric’s own high priest Fzoul Chembryl (whose loyalty lay with the dead Bane), great chaos was caused in two of Cyric’s most important bases of faith: Zhentil Keep, and the City of Death. A great number of Cyric’s follower lost their faith, thus greatly weakening Cyric himself. Without the will to control the City of Death, dead spirits were freed and roamed about the City. In addition, Cyric’s nightmare was freed from Dendar the Night Serpent, and the dream found Cyric, causing him to think that Kelemvor had somehow returned to life and to seek revenge. At that moment, Cyric, though a Greater Power, lost his mind and crushed his sword, which freed Kelemvor, and made his nightmare come true. The two fought, a dead soul against a god. Cyric’s fear, indecision, and madness became his defeat, and Kelemvor finally managed to overthrow Cyric’s rule in the City. By the wish of all dead spirits and Denizens in the Gray Wastes, in 1368 DR Kelemvor became the new God of Death.
To be the Lord of the Dead is to be the judgment of the departed souls. In the novel Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad, being the new Lord Death, Kelemvor wished to clear all the corruptions in the Realms of Death brought by former Lords of Death. He reshaped the Bone Castle, a twisted citadel in the Gray Wastes where Jergal, Myrkul and Cyric had all ruled from, into the transparent Crystal Spire, its translucency representing that no more should Death be a frightening mystery. While faithful souls would be claimed by their respective deities, faithless souls and those with a false faith that his/her god did not want, are judged before the God of Death. Former Gods of Death would decide whether they were the Faithless, or the False. Either way, in the hands of Myrkul or Cyric, these souls eventually ended up being eternally tortured.
Kelemvor, however, was more lenient on those Faithless and False who were virtuous and honorable in life, while the ones who were cowardly or capricious were severely punished. Those souls being judged as noble, would be sent to the then merrier and heaven-like parts in the City of Death, such as the Singing City, or Pax Cloister, while for thieves and cowards there were hell-like parts of the City such as Acid Swamps.
As a result, honorable and brave mortals no longer feared death, and recklessly threw their lives away, trusting in Kelemvor’s judgment rather the worshiping of other benevolent gods. The cowardly and crafty mortals became too fearful to do much, lest they die and find themselves before Kelemvor. This, in combination with Mystra’s unjust granting of magic, favoring only those good, brought unintentional imbalance and robbed the other deities of potential worshipers. Being exposed by Cyric, Kelemvor and Mystra were accused by the Circle of Greater Gods of being guilty of Incompetence by Humanity.
Kelemvor wondered how he could judge the damned, when he himself failed his own personal judgment. He gradually came to realize that there is nothing human in being a god. To correct his mistakes, great changes were undergone in his realm, as well as in himself. The City of the Dead was changed to a gray world, not truly light, not totally dark, simply dull gray. Gone was the good and evil in the City, only indifference and silence remained. The once diamond-like Crystal Spire was also smoked the color of topaz. Kelemvor also rid himself of all signs of humanity in order to properly fulfill his duties, which means replacing the warrior-like human he used to assume with a darkly robed figure, his raven black hair turned to silver, his eyes became pupiless, his appearance aged, his armor tattered and black, and donned a silver death mask.
He then conducted the Re-evaluation, where all souls in the City were to be judged according to new criteria, then be sentenced to new places in the City. Souls being judged will not find torture, but neither will they find joy. They will exist with souls ethically similar to themselves.
During the process, Adon (Kelemvor and Mystra’s mutual friend, as well the patriarch of Mystra’s new church) was driven mad by Cyric’s trickery, losing his faith in Mystra, and had died a faithless soul. Mystra came to Kelemvor and asked for Adon’s soul, which Kelemvor steadfastly refused since Adon was now one of the Faithless, or perhaps even the False. This, along with Kelemvor’s loss of passion, eventually caused the breaking up of their relationship.
As mortals, Kelemvor and Midnight were lovers, but it is unlikely this was maintained after Midnight’s ascension to take Mystra’s place as they were afterwards both deities with responsibilities. Kelemvor’s greatest enemy is Cyric, but he also fiercely opposed the machinations of Velsharoon, the necromancer god who animated the dead into undead and used them for unjust and evil deeds, and thus stood against everything Kelemvor works for, and Talona, for the unnatural deaths caused by her diseases. This also makes him an ally of Lathander the Morninglord, who also opposes undeath. Kelemvor maintains practical alliances with good and neutral-aligned gods of death in other pantheons — Sehanine Moonbow primarily and formerly Urogalan and Osiris as well. Kelemvor is served by the original deity of death, the mysterious, fatalistic, and pragmatic Jergal, who keeps records of the final disposition of spirits of the deceased.