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The Bishop

Other Names:

  • The Shining One
  • The Great Diaconate of Silent Vespers
  • Lord of the Hidden Tabernacle
  • High Priest of Oblivion

The Bishop is one of the Neverborns more devoted servants. Other efforts to gain power—war, magic, political subversion, and so on—come second to his religious effort.

Unfortunately, this often impedes his effectiveness. He doesn’t just promote ancestor cults and death worship over all other religions - he genuinely believes he can destroy Creation through pure theological argument; hoping to persuade all Creation’s mortals to march into the Void to experience the joy of nothingness.

At the core of the Bishop’s peculiar theology lie his own views on Oblivion, a philosophy called the Shining Path which he seeks to encapsulate into a set of scriptures called the Tome of Endless Night. According to these scriptures, the history of life consists of four ages.

  • In the First Age, the untempered Wyld was random chaos
  • In the Second Age, the Primordials forged Creation and fashioned flawed beings, who lived lives of pain and suffering before dying, only to reincarnate into new beings who lived lives equally full of pain and suffering.
  • In the Third Age, the more compassionate and enlightened Primordials sacrificed themselves to the Exalted to create the Underworld and open the door to the Mouth of the Void to give Creation a chance to free itself from its cruel burden of life.
  • Soon will come the fourth, final age as all life enters the Void. The comforting embrace of Oblivion will erase all pain, end all unhappiness, scourge all regret. Sin will no longer exist, for there will be none alive to commit them. The rich the poor man will be brothers, for there will be no wealth to covet. All will be at perfect, infinite peace. All will be one with Oblivion. All will be good.

Unfortunately, for all the Bishop’s devotion, his actual progress is slow. The Deathlord has spent centuries refining and recording his philosophies. Today, the Tome of Endless Night extends to hundreds of volumes. Some of the Bishop’s writings are so elegiac and moving that they became the doctrinal foundation for ancestor cults across Creation. Many more are gibberish consigned to the Bishop’s personal library. A few describe Oblivion so intimately and seductively that they drive readers insane (The Bishop reserves those for anyone who stands between him and his apotheosis).

His cult follows a doctrine of escape from the cycle, the idea of letting go to escape the suffering of existence. His cults lie to people, tricking them into leaping into Oblivion.

a vile, perverse creature who hates the condition of his own existence. He flays himself but cannot die. He tortures himself but cannot lessen the wicked blasphemy of what he is. Once, he tried to use martial arts to temper himself and repress his monstrosity, but it didn’t work and it made the obscenity he finds intolerable that much worse. Yet he believes none can reach the spiritual perfection only he can embody, so they can only hope to aspire to join with him. Once he has eaten all of their souls, he will become a vessel, carrying them all into Oblivion. It is this vanity—that he is their savior— that keeps him from just leaping into Oblivion himself.

The Charms he lends to the Abyssals might include:

  • dark evangelism
  • infecting people’s Intimacies and Virtues
  • cultforming Leadership actions
  • magically binding suicide pacts
  • brainwashing torture
  • blood-drinking/soul-eating/cannibalism.

APPEARANCE Edit

The Bishop prefers to take the form of a blind, wizened old man with a warm smile, exuding wisdom and tranquility, swathed in the robes of a traveling sage or priest. Many of his followers deliberately blind themselves to emulate their master, though he discourages this practice in his Abyssal servants. When they insist, he provides them with the means to see without eyes, via First Age technology, necrotech or other means.

When in battle the Bishop’s assumes a war form that is barely human: a rotting corpse with oily, black skin and a jutting canine jaw rimmed with razor-sharp fangs. Jagged bone spurs erupt from his skin as he moves, and grotesque sexual organs protrude from his body and undulate madly. The Bishop never wears clothing in battle, for the toxic oil that covers his skin chemically burns everything it touches. His eyes turn milky green and leak a putrescent green bile that is equally dangerous.

THE BISHOP’S DOMAIN Edit

The Bishop secludes himself in the bowels of the Hidden Tabernacle, an underground manse found in the shadowland known as the Silent Meadow of Dust. True to its name, the Hidden Tabernacle is hard to find. Through powerful magic, the Bishop shaped five geomantically identical locations in the shadowland, enabling his manse to manifest in any of them. The Silent Meadow of Dust itself is part of the Kunlun region, an extensive area of cold, arid steppe in Creation’s Northwest. Over the centuries, the Bishop succeeded in turning other small shadowlands into geomantic duplicates of the Silent Meadow of Dust, enabling the Hidden Tabernacle to appear further and further abroad in the North.

The Bishop’s temple-manse looks quite small — a basaltic structure coated in peeling gold paint, no more than 50 feet wide and 50 feet high. Most of the Hidden Tabernacle is underground, a great labyrinth of basalt and soulsteel leading ever deeper into the cold, dead earth. Mortal worshipers of the Shining Path are occasionally invited here to commune with the Bishop. More often, armies of his followers battle for the Bishop’s favor, fighting holy wars before the Tabernacle’s doors over doctrinal disputes so arcane as to be incomprehensible to anyone who’s not on the Shining Path. The survivors find only shadows, misery and death in the dark tunnels of the Tabernacle. Their ghosts wander, lost and bereft, until despair leads them to Oblivion and the truth behind the Bishop’s teaching — or until the Bishop’s deathknights find them. While the Bishop busies himself with his tomes and scriptures, his deathknights have more practical needs, and they can always do with more soulsteel. As a result, far fewer ghosts haunt the Tabernacle than have died there. Most of the ghosts in residence are nephwracks who attend to the Bishop’s needs like the adoring monks of a beloved abbot.

The Bishop claims complete theological authority over a number of village-states and tribes in the Kunlun region, such as the towns of Ikh Bayan, Naruu and Tharn. He also corresponds with mortal death cultists across Creation (though rarely with his fellow Deathlords), and could exert considerable influence among such groups if he chose to do so. He is not nearly as expansionist as most of his peers, but the Bishop shows a strong interest in the city of Whitewall, as well as the vast shadowland known as Marama’s Fell beyondit. Seizing control of Marama’s Fell is problematic given its nature and inhabitants. The Bishop also ponders how best to thwart the ongoing efforts of the Syndics of Whitewall to shrink the shadowland.

Furthermore, the Bishop has designs on Whitewall itself.

In the First Age, Whitewall was the holy city Ondar Shambal, geomantically designed to focus and amplify prayer.If Whitewall could be brought into a shadowland and its walls were suitably altered, the city could focus the prayers of ancestor cultists instead (Not to mention prayers to the Bishop, whom his followers worship as a de facto death-god .) A shadowland stretching from Marama’s Fell to the nearer Silent Meadow of Dust and encompassing Whitewall would be an achievement dwarfing those of all the other Deathlords. Most of the Bishop’s overt machinations are directed toward that end.

THE BISHOP’S PANOPLY Edit

Compared to his peers, the Bishop uses little necrotech or other artifacts. Instead, he relies on powerful martial arts skills. This frustrates his deathknights, especially those lacking patience and meditative focus to pursue martial arts studies. Indeed, some of his Abyssals perform services for rival Deathlords solely to acquire soulsteel weapons and armor. The Bishop permits such freelancing but always thoroughly debriefs the Abyssal afterward, looking for any signs of temptation away from the Shining Path. Thus far he has executed only one deathknight on the “crime” of remarking favorably the appearance of the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears but other deathknights have spent time on a short leash out of concerns for their loyalty.

The Deathlord’s most notable artifact is the Bishop’s "Crosier" - a tall black-jade shepherd’s staff with a curved hook at the top. The hook circles back into itself, and contains several hearthstone sockets. The Bishop has a number of hearthstones, but invariably stocks the Crosier with Abyssal equivalents of the monkey stone or the seven leaping dragon stone.

It has many curious powers, which work only for the Bishop himself:

• Weapon: The Crosier can function as a melee weapon, essentially an artifact staff of exceptional power.

• Bat Form: The Bishop can transform the Crosier into a black-jade automaton in the shape of a clockwork bat. He can see through the bat’s eyes and direct its actions at a cost of five motes per hour. In a shadowland or the Underworld, the bat can fly through walls and other solid objects as up to 30 miles per hour and never tires.

• Transubstantiation: the Crosier to transform a living mortal into a ghost for one day. Transformed mortals are considered “touched” with death. The mortal has all the innate properties of a ghost but possesses no Arcanoi or other Charms. Normal mortals also fall under the complete mental command of the Bishop. Heroic mortals can attempt to resist the Bishop’s commands, but they can rely on only their Parry MDV. This power cannot affect the Exalted.

Destroying the Crosier, whether in its bat-form or its normal form, required determined effort. If it is not totally destroyed, it repairs itself of all damage within a single day.

THE BISHOP’S TACTICS Edit

The Bishop prefers not to engage his foes in physical combat and favors Charms to crush his enemy’s will and bend them to his own agenda. If forced to fight, he calls upon his formidable Martial Arts Charms - having fully mastered Dark Messiah Style, Hungry Ghost Style and Mantis Style. He also knows the Charcoal March of Spiders Style to its Form, and currently works at developing a new Celestial martial art that he calls Gentle Embrace Style. Despite its disarming name, Gentle Embrace Style invokes the power of Oblivion itself. Once codified, it could become one of the deadliest martial arts styles ever invented.

SERVANTS OF THE BISHOP Edit

Regardless of the eloquence of his writing, the Bishop’s masters grow impatient with his theoretical approach to his mission. They goad his Abyssal servants to take more direct action. The Bishop himself, perhaps aware of his own faults, allows his deathknights wide latitude in pursuing both his agenda and that of the Neverborn. He does, however, give all of his Abyssal servants a firm spiritual grounding and inculcate them in the Understandings before he allows them to run free. Accordingly, most of his Abyssals take a somewhat religious approach to service, often acting as mendicant priests and holy warriors. All of the Bishop’s servants either believe fervently in his nihilistic religious views or are smart enough to fake such devotion. While the Deathlord allows his servants a relatively long leash, he also punishes any deviation from the Shining Path.

While few of his servants know all the Bishop’s arcane theology, virtually all adhere to its basic precepts: Life is a cruel cycle of pain and suffering; Death is immortality and freedom from Life’s chains; and Oblivion is the path to ultimate enlightenment and peace.

The Bishop’s servants must long for Oblivion. He chooses his closest followers (ghost or Abyssal) from the despairing and suicidal, and usually those who already adhere to his religious views. He does offer Exaltation tonly to those who already follow the Shining Path, though a few of his choices have shown weak faith (more than one of his deathknights merely mouth the words of the Tome of Endless Night but not really believing them). The Bishop cares not, for he knows the Neverborn will never allow such spiritual frauds to betray his greater mission. In the end, all will believe as he does. All will embrace Oblivion.

  • Dusk Caste Abyssals serving the Bishop fight in the name of Oblivion, the only thing worth dying for.
  • Midnight Caste Abyssals spread the Bishop’s gospel across Creation.
  • Daybreak Abyssals are perhaps the least favored of the Bishop’s servants, as he distrust scholarly deathknights for their intrinsically secular nature. Still, someone has to forge all his soulsteel and show Oblivion’s grandeur through necromancy. His most devoted servant, the Celebrant of Blood, is a Daybreak Abyssal who was once a mortal priestess of the Shining Path.
  • Day Castes typically serve as the Bishop’s inquisitors, watching for hints of apostasy from their fellows. Far from stamping out heresy, however, the Bishop’s inquisitors spread contradictory interpretations of scripture among rival territories in hopes of triggering religious warfare.
  • Moonshadow Abyssals become the Deathlord’s missionaries and diplomats, wandering across the North and even farther afield, spreading the Bishop’s good news.
  • The Moonshadow Caste called the White Walker of the North, recently traveled through Haslanti League territory. Despite his insolence, the Bishop hopes the actions of this 'individual deathknight' will one day pay off5

The Bishop’s most unusual servant is his most secret, an elderly man of enormous mystical power and martial arts called Ten Thousand Virtues. A few conspiracy theorists among the Shining Path wonder if Ten Thousand Virtues is actually the Deathlord while the Bishop is a false front. The Bishop encourages this view. Let those who would plot against him blunt their swords on a mighty but ultimately expendable warrior. Only the bishop’s most loyal servants know the truth: Ten Thousand Virtues is an ancient Sidereal Exalt converted to the Bishop’s vision after reading from the Tome of Endless Night.

Even that “truth” conceals a lie, however, for Ten Thousand Virtues is only one of the ancient Sidereal’s names.

As the Green Lady, the Sidereal infiltrates the councils of three of the Bishop’s most hated rivals: the Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Water, Mask of Winters and the Walker in Darkness. None of them realize that the beautiful lover they share is actually a man, let alone one spying on all three of them. Ten Thousand Virtues also kept his true loyalties hidden from the Five-Score Fellowship for centuries. He spreads disinformation about the Bishop’s activities among the Sidereals so that none of them realize the common belief system that unites death cults across Creation.