The world will die in fire and flood, beneath the sun gone black, before being born anew. It is fate, as inexorable as the tides rising and falling, as unceasing as the change of seasons. All northerners know this to be true, and it forms the foundation of their entire worldview. Though the end of all things draws ever closer, most northlanders focus on those things they can control, and they are content, if not happy. A few northerners feel the pull and tug of the end-times though, and rather than take actions to forestall the inevitable, they hasten it along, eager to be remade as gods themselves in the world that is to come.
The Coiled Ring, which takes its name from the ideal of the Great Serpent, exists to urge the world into ruin. Members engage in ritualized murder, arson, necromancy, and other forms of terrorism. They believe acts of violence against innocents and the righteous all serve to bring forth Fimbulwinter, the initial stage of Ragnarök. As a reward for ushering the end times, Coiled Ring cultists believe they will be returned in power once the new world emerges from the waters following the last battle.
Joining the Coiled Ring. To join the Coiled Ring, a candidate must commit an act of violence against an innocent, a priest of a good or lawful god, a shrine or temple, or a member of the established governing body of a region. The violence need not be fatal, but it must be bloody, brutal, and public. The most common form of application to the ring is in the burning of a temple or shrine devoted to a deity of healing, knowledge, or nature. If the shrine’s tender and one or two devotees are chained to the altar before being set ablaze, so much the better.
What is Expected of a Member? Members of the Coiled Ring are expected to take violent action whenever possible. A member who allows more than a week pass between acts of destruction is not living up to the bargain they made when they joined. Cultists seen to have lost their stomach for the cause or who frequently decline to work on larger projects with other members, are killed by their peers. If a member is no longer willing or able to serve, they can still serve as an example of the cost of weakness.
Elders of the Coiled Ring know Ragnarök cannot be brought forth without assistance. They also believe the degradation of the spirit is as effective a tool of apocalypse as the destruction of the body. They urge lesser cultists to encourage common people to act out violently at even the slightest provocation. If the potential exists to whip a crowd into a frenzied mob, they are expected to do so. If a riot can be sparked, it should be done. If an innocent can be convinced to murder an important figure in their life, they should be. And that act should be but the first of many ruinous acts.
Coiled Ring Axioms. The core beliefs of the Coiled Ring are as follows:
- The end of all things is decreed by fate.
- We will be as gods when the new world is birthed.
- Violence is the means and the end.
- Corrupt the spirit and watch the body follow suit.
- The children of the World Serpent are your brothers and sisters. Slay all others who claim to be such.
Important Texts or Dogma. All members of the Coiled Ring are required to read Habits of Hunger and Rime, a treatise on Ragnarök written by the organization’s founder, the late Jorgen Cppenkoller, and memorize his six theorems. On the day following each of the seasonal equinoxes, they are required to sacrifice a living being, preferably an intelligent and free-willed one, on a rotting slab of red oak as twilight falls.
Allies and Enemies. Every rational creature is an enemy of the Coiled Ring. The organization’s ethos is to usher the world to ruin, and its doctrine leads to wanton destruction. In particular, priests and champions of good-aligned deities, particularly those devoted to the beneficial aspects of civilization and learning, root out chapters of the ring in order to grant the doomsday cultists the violent end they seek. Redeeming the cultists is nearly impossible, so most who hunt them don’t bother, though some do worry that they are merely perpetuating the ring’s cycles of destruction.
Benefits of Membership. Membership in the Coiled Ring grants cultists few perks while they live, but it guarantees a memorable death:
- When a member of the Coiled Ring dies, their body explodes in a bloody burst of bone shards and necrotic energy. All creatures within 10 feet of their body when this occurs must make a Dexterity saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + the cultist’s Constitution modifier + the cultist’s proficiency bonus, taking 7 (2d6) slashing and 7 (2d6) necrotic damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.
In Midgard: The Coiled Ring at a Glance
Type of Organization: Doomsday cult
Symbol: A thrice-coiled black serpent with the heads at each end of its body facing each other
Disciplines Taught: Demolition, endure privation, intimidation, sabotage
Affiliated Weapon: Maul
Important NPCs: Mats Sandquist (CE human apostle, see Southlands Worldbook), Olga Gilderklaus (NE trollkin battle mage, see Creature Codex), Nette Bitterbrew (CE dwarf necromancer, see Creature Codex), Jüsper Hel (CE human war mage, see Creature Codex)
Primary Sanctuaries: Förstöl Cirkel, a circle of rune-carved megaliths deep in the forest north of Stannasgard
Major Sanctuary: Smacirkel, a megalithic ring near Skaldholm
Diar Mats Sandquist. A high-ranking priest of Chernobog, Mats assumed unofficial leadership over the Coiled Ring after he murdered its founder, Jorgen Cppenkoller. Now his dead friend haunts him, urging him to ever-grander acts of destruction. Mats has thrice found himself on the executioner’s block, and each time, he has survived the experience while killing dozens of those who came to witness his death.
There are many ways to introduce the Coiled Ring to your campaign:
- Three shrines to Freyr and Freyja near Stannasgard have been burned. A local priest hires the PCs to investigate the arson and mete out judgment to the perpetrators.
- Popular minstrels in Skaldholm are being murdered, jointed, and put on grisly display with their instruments set ablaze. The characters must put an end to the deaths before one of their number, a bard of some prominence, is targeted.
- Local orchards and fields have been struck with pestilence, ruining the bulk of the year’s harvest, and a sage has indicated the blight is supernatural in origin. In order to stave off widespread starvation, the characters must root out the rot while endeavoring to secure food and supplies from other regions.