A rapidly growing cult in Zobeck, the Song Undying has driven the clergy of certain temples in the city, including that of Rava, to petition the government to step in to shut it down. However, Zobeck’s mayor and other influential citizens are reluctant to interfere. In fact, several of them openly support the cult. This new cult and its leader have captured the hearts and minds of people with one thing: the Song Undying—the music of the universe, an unending melody that binds all life together. Master the song, and death cannot approach you. Life, youth, and happiness forever. It is easy to see why such a creed would have wide appeal. No worry about sin, about moral behavior, about absolution, devotion, or fear of punishment. Live in harmony with the song, and you live for as long as the song lives in you. This is the message spread by the cult’s leader, Salamondre, and his chosen disciples.
Salamondre was well known in Zobeck and elsewhere years before he founded his religion. As a bard, Salamondre was a renowned dirgist, having composed for and sung at the funerals of dignitaries, nobility, and wealthy patrons. And then the bard’s parents died suddenly, one after the other. His mother succumbed to a sudden illness, and her husband took his life soon after. Salamondre performed heartbreaking compositions at both ceremonies, and then left Zobeck with a band of adventurers.
The power behind the bard’s music was his own existential fear of death. His wanderings were an attempt to find some way to ward off the inevitable, risking death in order to elude it forever. After years abroad, one final adventure proved to be the demise of the adventuring band with only Salamondre and Giselle, a paladin of Lada, surviving. Yet Salamondre managed to find what he was looking for, and he returned to Zobeck a changed man. He sold off his family’s properties and poured his liquid assets into founding the Song Undying. Unknown to the city, Salamondre had returned greatly changed. He was now a virtuoso lich (see Tome of Beasts 2), changed and transformed by the artifact he had unearthed, the object that lies at the center of his new religion: the Thrice-Cursed Heart.
The Thrice-Cursed Heart
Originally known as the Heart of Lada, this jeweled egg was fashioned by a master jeweler as a show of devotion to her goddess. Such was the zeal and faith of this petitioner that Lada’s attention was drawn, and she blessed the object with holy power, intending it to be an instrument of peace, love, and healing. However, it also roused the anger and envy of those her church calls the three evil sisters: Marena, Sarastra, and the White Goddess. They worked together and warped the original intent of the item, transforming it into one of subtle corruption, evil veiled by beauty. Thus, it became the Thrice-Cursed Heart. When its corruption was discovered, the horrified priesthood of Lada hid the thing deep in the deserts of the Southlands where it remained until Salamondre’s adventuring band discovered it. The tormented bard was drawn by the Heart, led on by a melody only he could hear. Even when the traps laid to protect it injured him and killed the rest of his band, Salamondre had the presence of mind to grasp the artifact and hide it away, even as Giselle carried him to safety.
Over time, as Salamondre studied the Heart and unlocked its powers, the relic bound itself to him and slowly changed him, bringing him into a state of undeath. Simultaneously, the Heart itself was changed, altered to become the phylactery for the bard’s tortured soul. Salamondre, in the meantime, believed he was coming ever closer to mastering the Song Undying. Soon, he would be able to not only fend off death from himself, but from anyone, and to restore life to those whom death had already claimed.
Salamondre invested his fortune in a secluded place from which he could begin his new ministry. Already known and beloved among the people of Zobeck, the charismatic lich lured people in, teaching them the Song Undying, and the Heart fed upon the harmonies and increased in power. Soon, Salamondre was able to do as he claimed, or so he thought, and pluck back those lost to death. However, the returned may have appeared whole in body, but they were undead, just with enough of a shred of their former soul to provide their memories. The rest was the evil of the Heart. No fool, Salamondre eventually realized what he was doing. However, he believes that it is simply his inexperience at play and that eventually his faithful will be restored in full if he truly masters the power of the Heart. Their condition is not a concern, merely a temporary mistake that will eventually be corrected.
In the meantime, the Heart lies hidden within a golden sphere, wrapped in bands holding musical notes, a physical representation of the Song Undying. This orb is the relic the faithful cherish and adore, and they are unaware of the evil that lurks within it. They know it as something to be protected and revered.
Next time, Salamondre’s loyal lieutenants and the goals of the Song Undying.