The Bleak House
by Luke Fleeman

This temple of Kelemvor is a simple, small gray building just at the edge of the cemetery. Until the time of troubles, this temple was one of the most powerful in town, rivaling (almost) the Twin Devotions.

The Myrkulites here were dealt a terrible blow when Cyric took over, as the temple weakened quickly. To pay of debts, they had to sell many of their lands on the edge of the cemetery, which are now Mausoleums for townspeople.

The church almost vanished just before Kelemvor's ascension, but the work of one of his faithful in accordance with the last remaining Myrkulite saved the temple. Though not as powerful as before, the church is in better shape than it has been in a long time.

The current High Priest is the last Myrkulite mentioned above, a man stooped by age who walks heavily on a cane, called Parthon the Aged (NE hm P19), who has largely forsaken his evil ways in service of his new god. He is assisted(and monitored) by a young servant of Kelemvor called Pallas (LN hm P6) who is expected to take over upon Parthon's death.

Before the ascension of Cyric as Lord of the Dead, before the time of troubles, the Bleak House was perhaps the only true "competition" for the Twin Devotions. Myrkul was still Lord of the Dead, and in Fellaren-Krae, the Bleak House was powerful.

Founded shortly after the founding of the city proper, the Bleak House owned huge tracts of land a short distance from the flourishing city. They offered their services for a price, caring for and entombing the dead. They became very good at their work, and as the city grew and its dangers became apparent(as in any city frequented by those rapacious fellows called adventurers) the Bleak House grew rich from their work.

There were a few bumps in the road, no doubt. When the city grew out to encompass the cemetery, there was nowhere to go with new bodies. Further, the Council of the Oakenstave did not want people using the cemetery roads for normal travel. So two great, city-sponsored projects were spawned.

First the walls were raised. The whole cemetery was ringed in a nine foot tall brick wall, which was then painted black and emblazoned with the symbols of Myrkul, warding off commoners not paying their respects. The wall also ringed Grey Hill, the large piece of raised land on the east side of the cemetery that held the Bleak House and the affiliated buildings.

Next came the catacomb project. The city helped the Myrkulytes tunnel deep into the ground and prepare graves in tunnels whose fingers stretched deep into the ground. Thus, current inhabitants can tell the oldest families in town, because their ancestors are buried on ground level, while newer arrivals to death are in the lower catacombs.

This city backed support allowed the temple to exert considerable influence. Anything they did that would be frowned own they hid well, and anything that would undermine the church was quickly dispatched by authorities lest they become guilty by association. And the temple became even richer.

The temple peaked in its power about 50 years ago, when it became an informal ally of the Twin Devotions in a battle against a group of Moander worshippers, at the behest of a charismatic young priest called Parthon. After cleaning our the Darkbringers subjects, the two remained on good terms (it should be noted that, however, the Myrkulytes did not do these good deeds just for the sake of good. They knew this would allow them more power, and they knew it would benefit them. Further, they were trying to wrest a magical item from the cult of Moander, so they decided to kill two birds with one stone).

And that relationship was good enough that when a group of Lathander's priests, not overly friendly to Myrkul's faithful, asked to found a church, the Twin Devotions denied it, as did the Council, simply because the Mykulytes wished it.

The Bleak House at this time towered into the sky over the cemetery, high enough that it was almost as large as the Twin Devotions. The priests lived lavishly in homes surrounding the House.

Then came the Time of Troubles. When the smoke had cleared, all that remained was a mortal called Cyric claiming dominion over the dead. The church quickly declined as the foul deeds of Cyric and the former priests of Bane and Bhaal spread through Fellaren-Krae, and former Banites in the city began to act worse than before. People actually began to ship their dead relatives to other cities at his point!

Furthermore, half-wit followers of Cyric running the former Banite temple (also in town) began gambling with the Bleak House's lands, and to pay off debts, Parthon the Aged sold the property on Grey Hill right up to the Bleak House, and even had to remove the upper floors of the temple and sell it for money!

When the Talassans attacked the other temples, and the Cyricists aided them, the Bleak House was also on the list for punishment. It was only by the remembrance of the Bleak House's former deeds that it was allowed to remain.

It did little good, however. The priests slowly left until only old Parthon and a few faithless embalmers and gravediggers remained. Parthon paid only token worship to Cyric at this point, just to retain power.

However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Kelemvor ascended to godhood, and Parthon breathed a sigh of relief. A young worshipper called Pallas came, and helped Parthon retake some of the Bleak House's former dignity.

Parthon has given up many of his old ways, and now in his late 80s, he is preparing to pass leadership of the small but thriving clergy to Pallas. The Bleak House once again was used to bury loved ones, and the catacombs are again operating at full efficiency. 10 priests, all less than 4th level in ability, currently make up the clergy.


The Cemetery

The cemetery of Fellaren-Krae occupies an area in the east-central area of town. As mentioned above, it is ringed by a black, brick wall, which now sports the symbols of Kelemvor. A large, flat are of head stones make up most of the above ground facilities. However, on the eastern side of the cemetery, a small knoll called Grey Hill rises. Though formerly covered with annexes and priest's quarters, the trying times of Cyric as Judge of the Damned have caused the hill to be covered in mausoleums owned by the rich of Fellaren-Krae. On the hilltop is a three story, windowless, nondescript gray building. The only outward symbol of its use lie in the simple symbol of Kelemvor above the large, oaken double door. This is the Bleak House.

The ground floor is used as an area for services and for setting up arrangements for burials. The second floor is where the priests meet, and where the junior clergy lives. The third floor is separated into three large rooms: Pallas's room, Parthon's room, and the treasury. In the treasury toils a single scribe, a follower of Jergal, who diligently works away. He seldom leaves, spending most of his time writing. His only belonging is a cot that sits in the corner of the room. Only Pallas and Parthon know him, though others in the area infrequently spot him as he moves on some unknown errand.

Two basements lay below the temple. The first is the room used for last rites, and preparation of bodies. The second is mostly a way station for bodies going to the catacombs.

Virtually all those who die are buried in the massive complex of catacombs that lays under the cemetery surface. Each body is placed in a coffin and stored in a cove in the wall, and a placard with that person's "important" information identifies them.

The catacombs are simple, clean, dry caves paved with gray stone.

Little trouble arises here, though occasional graverobbers do appear, albeit rarely. However, on the second to the lowest level of the catacombs, in the most western wing, an undead menace lairs, forbidding entry. Some families whose loved ones are in there occasionally hire adventurers to retrieve bodies so they may be stored elsewhere. The Bleak House is currently contemplating a course of action.

Further, a hermit wanders the catacombs aimlessly, but he causes no trouble, so the priests leave him be. If asked why he is there, he mumbles about a lost child, and will prattle on for hours without actually saying anything.

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