Initiates of the Mysteries wish to learn and gain power from Charun, the frightening escorts, guardians, and guides of the dead. One faction of the Initiates is led by Kyrios Kiseon (Master Undertaker) Mux.
Wiping sweat from the crossed hammer and oar tattooed on his forehead, Mux flares his robe and climbs weathered stairs to an altar nestled in a dark alcove. Unusual for the stuffy caves, a warm breeze blows. Torches flicker. Genuflecting Initiates stop their rhythmic chanting. Mux gestures—a blurred hand—and the Initiates drag forth a bleating sheep, placing it upon the blood-blackened stone. Mumbling incantations, Mux is handed a silver hammer. He delivers three blows to the skull of the sacrifice. Bone cracks, and its shards are driven into soft gray brain matter. The animal twitches—a too-late command to run—and a whirlwind fills the chamber. Despite the maelstrom, a smoky apparition of Charun Cippus forms behind the altar, landing and standing before the congregation.
The bluish monstrosity stands over the cultists and their leader. From beneath his heavy brow, Cippus’s feverish eyes gaze upon them. He raises his heavy hammer, crashing it down, shaking the dark church. The altar heaves and fractures, and then a false wind howls, washing away the apparition. The Initiates rise. They move to drain blood and remove entrails from the sacrifice. With the yield, they splatter four statues representing the Charun: there is Cippus the Dispater; the skeletal hooded ferryman Chunchules; the blistered whip-cracking Huths; and the ravenous Lufes (see “The Cult of the Charun—What Are Charun?”).
The Initiates of the Mysteries are a confederation of lesser Charun death cults. This cult’s Master Undertakers are often of noble blood or hail from the clergy of less persecuted religions, while lower-ranked Undertakers and Initiates are recruited from all walks of life. Through ritual, these cultists seek both to prolong life and to ease their own death, all while gaining standing among the minions and servants of Hades—God of the Underworld and King of the Dead. Membership brings an assurance that the gold obolus each cultist wears upon a necklace will be placed beneath their tongue before burial. Initiates are predominantly neutral, and, like the Charun, revel in expressions of both good and evil, especially when occurring simultaneously and accompanied by pain. They likely sport the cult’s symbol—a crossed oar and hammer—somewhere on their body, with the organization’s higher ranks having it tattooed on their forehead, a mark they hide with magic or pigments. With exposure to the Underworld, all Initiates bear blisters and sores, eye-color may fade to black, and they acquire a brown aura. Warhammers and hooked whips are the preferred weapons of the cult’s foot soldiers, and Initiate clerics channel evil energy, focusing spells on the death domain to bolster, command, and rebuke the undead. There is no known single leader of the Initiates.
Geographic alliances often form among Cult of Charun factions and other likeminded gatherings. Surprisingly democratic proceedings then yield a temporary Despos Kiseon—loosely translated to Lead Undertaker—among such ententes. Such votes are usually in response to a threat to the cult, such as when authorities take note of disappearing maidens, the preferred sacrifice of such ilk. With the cult defended—sometimes with mercenaries, and usually by raising the dead—the Despos Kiseon is deposed or killed, and the cult melts away again. Though the Cult of Charun will meet anywhere, converting any surrounds to their purpose, it is their permanent subterranean temples that are of particular interest.
Charun temples are usually chambers hewn from living rock. These centers of ceremony replicate the dark geography of Hades: rooms with misty gloomy fields; jagged miniature mountains; cold reflective pools; and, twisting polluted rivers. The preferred location for such places are smack beneath cathedrals of Pelor, with cult Initiates stealthily tunneling beneath these churches of the light, always constructing their temples trap-laden, with multiple escape paths, and rigged to collapse on command.
Initiates will defend the Kiseon and the cult’s clerics with their very lives, safe in the knowledge that their brethren will leave none behind and will complete appropriate death rites. There is but one hard rule of cult life: Just like the Underworld, there is no leaving.