Orcus

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Greyhawk Deity
Orcus
Orcus01.jpg
Orcus, as depicted in Fiendish Codex I (2006).
Title(s) Prince of the Undead, Prince of Undeath, The Blood Lord.
Home Plane Abyss
Power Level Demon lord
Gender Male
Class(es)
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Portfolio Undead
Domains Chaos, Death, Demonic, Evil, Undeath.
Alias(es)
Superior None.

Orcus is the Demon Prince of the Undead. His symbol is a mace with a human skull as the head.

Description

Orcus is typically described as having the head and legs of a goat, although with ram-like horns, a bloated body, bat-like wings, and a long tail.

Orcus cares for nothing save himself—not even his devotees and undead servants—and focuses only on spreading misery and evil. One of his most identifiable symbols is the Wand of Orcus, a skull-topped artifact with the power to slay any living being. Orcus also once wielded a powerful artifact known as the Orcusword.

Relationships

Orcus has many enemies, but the mightiest of them is Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. Other enemies include Graz'zt, Kiaransali, Laduguer, and Saint Bane the Scourger.

Minions

The following beings are some of Orcus's most infamous servants:

  • Acererak. The infamous lich Acererak was once a servant of Orcus, long ago.
  • Lord Andromansis of Garasteth, a death knight.
  • Elder Arantham, a huecuva priest, formerly devoted to Bahamut, who seeks to transform Orcus once again into a true god.
  • Bleeding Setch, a cambion, was once a proxy of Orcus. He went into hiding after Orcus's demise, but it isn't clear whether or not he has returned to the service of the Prince of Undeath.
An aspect of Orcus, as depicted in the Miniatures Handbook (2003).
  • Eldanoth, a former vassal of Orcus who abandoned Thanatos when the wards keeping him enslaved to the Prince of the Undead were broken by the demon lord's death. He now dwells on the 359th layer of the Abyss, seeking to become a god of hate and crime.
  • Eldrua, a derro savant who sought to build a device that would siphon thousands of souls to her master in the Abyss.
  • Glyphimhor, a balor who serves Orcus faultlessly and enjoys slaying Kiaransali's faithful.
  • Gorguth, a bodak general who turns away from the service of Orcus to serve Atropus.
  • Hacamuli, one of the messengers of Orcus. He appears as a pale, gaunt horse with hazy black eyes. Flies crawl over his sore-infested body.
  • Harthoon, a powerful lich sorcerer from the material plane. He is Orcus's vizier and a master embalmer.
  • Kauvra, a deadly half-orc vampire known for her rages. She is Orcus's personal enforcer.
  • Khuul the Witch-Ghoul, once one of Orcus's greatest servants. Khuul was slain centuries ago by Saint Bane.
  • Khavra Akti, a grey elven wizard who hopes to aid Orcus in annexing the world of the dead to his Abyssal realm.
  • Kierno Varim, a tiefling warlock known as the "mad animator," who believes that if the undead ever outnumber the dead, reality will rearrange itself so that undeath is the natural order.
  • The King of Ghouls, who served Orcus before his layer was conquered by Yeenoghu.
  • Mauglurien, a dwarven death knight rival of Elder Arantham. Mauglurien hopes to elevate Orcus by slaying an existing goddess of death and reanimating her as an undead thrall. Mauglurien leads a mercenary company called the Ebon Riders.
  • Quah-Nomag, a half-ogre Skull King who was pivotal in Lord Orcus's return. He now inhabits Lash Embrar, having been stationed there after Orcus tired of his pretentions.
  • Shonvurru, an undead marilith who seeks to alter reality by studying or controlling elder evils from the dawn of time.
  • Sithas Tyrr, a "paladin" of Orcus who seeks to change the world by controlling something that even the gods fear.
  • Xerivar, a bloody animated corpse with three quasits continually tearing at his flesh.

Realm

Orcus' realm is Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss (although in H4: The Throne of Bloodstone, it is numbered 333rd). Thanatos is a frigid and frozen layer infested with the undead. Several cities dot the layer, most of which are ruled by minions of Orcus, including a powerful succubus and Quah-Nomag himself. The Prince of the Undead rules from his palace of Everlost in the Bone Meal Desert north of the Final Hills, a vast mountain chain that cuts across the layer. Despite Orcus regaining control over Thanatos, Kiaransalee's taint can still be found in the city of Naratyr on the Frozen Sea south of the layer, and in the so-called Forbidden Citadel in the city of Lachrymosa, located in the Final Hills.

Orcus also keeps a fortress, named Tcian Sumere, on the Negative Energy Plane.

Dogma

According to Ghostwalk, page 85, followers of Orcus are commanded to promise their souls to their demonic patron, to eschew mercy, and to embrace torture and suffering. They are promised that one day Orcus's minions will overwhelm the world in a tide of undeath, and that even the gods will die. Eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, they are urged, and through Orcus you will gain life everlasting.

Worshipers

Orcus battles Demogorgon, as depicted in Fiendish Codex I (2006). Art by Arnie Swekel.

The cult of Orcus is mainly composed of twisted creatures with a morbid fascination with the undead, such as necromancers, as well as creatures deliberately seeking the path to undeath, such as would-be liches and vampires. They often wear macabre costumes decorated with bones and skulls.

Clergy

Clerics of Orcus are in charge of promoting necromancy, pain, torture, undeath, and the destruction of all that is good. They pray for spells at midnight. Their colors are red and black, although bone white is often used as decoration.

Leaders in Orcus's church are called Skull Lords. If they achieve great enough status on their world, they may be invited to Thanatos in person, where they are expected to lead a horde of undead against a material world or one of Orcus's foes. If they succeed in this, they are rewarded with the title of Skull King. If they fail, they are reanimated as liches and imprisoned in the city of Golmin Thur forever.

Rituals

The vilest ritual in Orcus's already vile faith is the Unhallowing. This ceremony has no set date, but involves sacrificing a paladin to Orcus and creating a self-loathing undead creature from the remains.

Holy days

The holy days of Orcus are the nights of the new moons and Sunsebb 28, the last day of the year. When a moon is at its darkest, worshipers of Orcus are required to either create an undead creature or to bring a corpse to other Orcus cultists so that an undead creature can be made.

Artifacts

The Wand of Orcus

The Wand of Orcus is a powerful artifact. This skull-tipped wand has the ability to automatically slay any living creature it touches.

The Wand is highly coveted across the planes, and Orcus sometimes lets it fall into the hands of mortals in order to allow them to wreak chaos and evil. The Wand is currently thought to be in the possession of a cult called the Lurkers In Shadow.

The Orcusword

The Orcusword was Orcus's personal weapon when he was still a balor. It is currently held in Tcian Sumere, Orcus's fortress on the Negative Energy Plane.

History

Orcus is a very old demon. Like many of the most powerful demon lords who struggle for power in the Abyss, Orcus started his existence as a mortal on the Prime Material Plane. He was apparently a wicked spellcaster of some sort, most probably a priest to some dark deity. After his death, his soul, like the souls of all chaotic evil mortals, went to the Abyss and Orcus began his afterlife as a lowly larva.

Orcus, as depicted in the Monster Manual (1977).

Orcus proceeded to climb through the demonic ranks in the next several thousand years, going from larva to mane, from mane to dretch, from dretch to rutterkin, from rutterkin to vrock, from vrock to glabrezu, from glabrezu to nalfeshnee, and eventually a balor. From there, he ascended to the rank of demon lord, becoming the Prince of the Undead and ruling the layer of Thanatos, the Belly of Death. Even though there are other demon lords aspiring to the title of "Prince of the Undead," Orcus's claim to the title has gone unchallenged for the most part. Ever hungry for more power, Orcus wanted to be recognized as "Prince of Demons," a title held by Demogorgon and coveted also by Graz'zt. As a result, he became the arch-enemy of both demon lords. In time, buoyed by his mortal cultists, Orcus achieved true godhood.

However, shortly after his divine ascension, Orcus was slain by the drow demigoddess Kiaransalee, who took over rulership of Orcus's layer of the Abyss and locked his wand away in the last layer of Pandemonium. Kiaransalee decreed that Orcus's name be erased from all existence.

A peculiar combination of events thwarted Kiaransalee's plans. Acererak's tampering with the nature of the Negative Energy Plane, the last prayers of Quah-Nomag, and the unexpected awakening of some of the sleepers of the demiplane of Moil combined to cause the spirit of Orcus to be reanimated as an undead god. Renaming himself Tenebrous in order to help obscure himself from his enemies, Orcus traveled to ruins buried in the sands of Pelion. There, he discovered the Last Word, an utterance so powerful that it can destroy deities. The Last Word will also eventually kill those who know it unless the being is a true deity. Thus, to restore his lost divinity, Orcus went in search of his wand. During his search, Orcus killed several gods and other powerful entities, including Bwimb, Primus, and Maanzecorian. Orcus's efforts were stymied by a group of adventurers and Orcus was again destroyed, this time by the power of the Last Word. A cabal of greater deities, in response to Tenebrous's predations, has since weakened the Last Word considerably.

Orcus was resurrected by Quah-Nomag, one of his foremost high priests and thralls, in a blasphemous ritual enacted in the Astral Plane. Orcus then reclaimed his kingdom and his original name, re-proclaiming himself "Prince of the Undead" (despite his hatred of undead). However, as a result of his second death and resurrection, Orcus has lost his divinity; he is a mere demon lord once more.

Orcus's divinity now exists as a vestige named Tenebrous: The Shadow That Was, and can be called upon by binders.

Creative origins

Orcus is named after the god of the underworld in Roman mythology. He appeared in John Milton's Paradise Lost as an inhabitant of the Abyss with Demogorgon, Chaos, Ades, and Night.

Bibliography

  • Bennie, Scott. "Setting Saintly Standards." Dragon #79. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
  • Dobson, Michael, and Douglas Niles. The Mines of Bloodstone. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1986.
  • -----. The Throne of Bloodstone. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1988.
  • Henson, Dale, and Doug Stewart, eds. Encyclopedia Magica Vol 4. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1995.
  • Marmell, Ari. "The Ashen Covenant." Dragon #364. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2008. Available online:[1]
  • McComb, Colin. Faces of Evil: the Fiends. Renton, WA: TSR, 1997.
  • -----. On Hallowed Ground. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
  • Moldvay, Tom. "Demons, Devils, and Spirits." Dragon #42. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, October 1980.
  • Sernett, Matthew, Dave Noonan, Ari Marmell, and Robert J. Schwalb. Tome of Magic. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.
  • Stewart, Todd, and the Paizo Staff. "1d20 Villains." Dragon #359. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2007.