Runes of Kilmorph
Kilmorph is the Goddess of the Earth, She Who Dwells Beneath. She breathed life into her stone children, the dwarves, and taught them the secrets of metalworking. One of the first religions available to the men of the world, Kilmorph will answer the prayers of honorable men and even send her soldiers to defend their cities.
The Runes of Kilmorph is a set of rules and guidelines handed down by the first dwarves, mainly emphasizing personal responsibility, loyalty and the rule of law. Followers are exhorted to do their best in their craft, deal honestly with everyone, and to repay their debts. This is especially applied to family and close kin, and results in close-knit local communities (the ‘Clans’). Followers of Kilmorph are usually quite industrious and seldom cheat their customers. Since this results in reduced corruption and a generally prosperous economy, some followers mistake the benefits of the creed for its goals, and greed is not an uncommon vice.
Adherents to the Runes of Kilmorph may not be so quick to help a stranger in need. Especially one from another culture, nation, or religion. Unlike The Order or The Empyrean, they are less likely to rise to the defense of a foreign land, unless those foreigners had done them a favor in the past.
The Runes are also the most traditional of religions. Bambur exists since the creation of the dwarves and in many cases this original tradition is as limiting as it is unifying. The Runes exemplify excellence, but not from raw talent. It is an excellence gained through millennia of tradition, practice and repetition.
The Runes of Kilmorph clerical hierarchy consists of 5 tiers, ranked from lowest to highest:
Each rank spans roughly four cleric class levels in 5e. Thus, a RoK ‘priest’ is usually a 5th-8th level cleric. The highest-ranked Runekeeper is known as the ‘High Runekeeper’. There may be more than one High Runekeeper for each nation-state where RoK is paramount: the empires of the Khazad dwarves and Luchuirp gnomes. A Thane is typically the highest ranking cleric of churches in other empires where the RoK is followed.
In the early years of the Age of Magic, a Patrian artist named Kheldon Ki was called before a wealthy merchant lord and ordered to produce a statue of the lord for all the populace to revere. Kheldon was a priest of Kilmorph, Angel of the Earth, and a genius among stone-shapers. Everything he created displayed the true soul of his subject. As such, his statue of the lord radiated a sense of ego and vanity to all who looked upon it. When the lord saw the completed statue, he ordered it torn down. Kheldon soon found himself falsely accused of a heinous crime and summarily condemned to life imprisonment.
Kheldon spent 40 years within the lightless dungeon, blind and alone. To fight his loneliness, he began sculpting people from stalagmites growing in a network of low caverns. By the end of his life, he had created hundreds of these stocky statues of men and women, all performing a variety of tasks befitting a population living underground. At a great age Kheldon lay close to death upon the floor of the dungeon. It was then that Kilmorph appeared before him in a blazing radiance of scintillate jewels. “You have been imprisoned unjustly. For this I will grant you a wish. Choose your wish carefully, for you will gain only one, be it for revenge against the lord who imprisoned you or a renewal of your lost youth.”
In this way Kilmorph hoped to test Kheldon, to see if he would wish only for revenge against the lord and thus be judged unworthy. But Kheldon asked for neither of these two things. "I wish not for revenge as it would gain me nothing, and I wish not for new life, for I am ready to die. My only wish is that during my final hours I will not be alone.” Kilmorph saw this as a just wish. Though Kilmorph lacked the true power of creation, withdraw by the One God at the end of the Age of Angels, she breathed life into the statues Kheldon had created. The new stone people cared for Kheldon until he died. After Kheldon’s death, his soul was carried to the vault of Kilmorph on the back of a great dragon where he was welcomed among the spirits of his ancestors. As for the stone people, they burrowed out of the Patrian dungeon and escaped into the Underdark to become the dwarves of today.
The first generation of dwarves never age. These immortal dwarf lords remain exactly as they were when first shaped thousands of years past. Each new generation of dwarves descend farther from the breath of Kilmorph, becoming increasingly mortal in spirit and in life. Bambur is one of the few original dwarves not destroyed by war, dragon or mishap. He was carved by Kheldon and had Kilmorph herself breathe life into him. He is nearly as talented a crafter as his creator, but seeing the way of the world, chooses to make weapons instead of statues.
Bambur has had to witness the decline of the dwarves with each new generation. Ultimately the stone people must disappear from creation. Even the Umberguard has turned away from Kilmorph, but Bambur fights on for his goddess and mother. His strength and his weapons are available to any that fights for Kilmorph.
An entire company was wiped out by her. She wore a ragged white dress and matted red hair, both of which clung to her like grease on a pan. She didn’t carry weapons, she didn’t need them. Her claws were like iron, she was stronger than any girl. But she was just a girl, or at least once she had been. She clawed and bit at them, coughed and wheezed and fled. One of their number was dead and several injured.
Arthendain began applying healing poultices to the wounds, but they were already growing green with infection. The finger-sized gashes broke open, skin and muscle peeled back as if it was trying to escape the bone. They writhed in pain, and in minutes they looked as if they had been flogged with a whip; after a few more, they appeared as fresh zombies, still screaming, minds alive as their bodies died. Then finally, mercifully, they died.
Arthendain was uninjured from the fight, but still the disease spread. He grabbed his crossbow intent on making sure the girl didn’t spread her disease any further. As he gripped the polished handle of his crossbow, he noticed his own hands had begun to redden and swell. He hurried to water; they were in the sewers beneath Prespur and normally he wouldn’t touch the water here, but it had to be better than what was on him. He scrubbed his hands, but it just got worse, then the coughing began.
He heard himself screaming, exactly as the others. He fell face down into the water trough and died. The disease spread in the water; the next morning, the city would have awoken to a plague. There would be barely any left by nightfall, had not Kilmorph intervened. The Earth Goddess interceded for the dwarf ’s spirit and Arawn consented.
Arthendain doesn’t remember much, everything from scrubbing his hands to waking up that next morning in a local tavern is little more than a blur. He remembers a dark angelic form speaking from above. He remembers being given a crystal flask and told to keep it safe, and never open it until the red-headed girl is found. He remembers being told that he must find that girl. And to this day he has worked toward that goal.
“Nothing is more sacred than the earth that gave us birth.”
—The Tablets of Bambur
“It has been widely accepted as fact that the pen is mightier than the sword. With our new mithril blades, I think it just might be time to revise that statement.”
It was dusk when the Stonewarden arrived. Few had ever actually seen one in this small village, but I knew his cause full well. The dwarves all made way for him, a few offering cautious greetings, which he ignored. He stopped in a clearing at the other edge of town and surveyed his surroundings, then sat down and began to chant. Soon the earth began to shake, and a cloud of dust surrounded the Stonewarden. The small dwarf children clung tightly to their mothers as the loud scraping of earth and rock echoed through the village. In minutes it was over, and jagged edges of stone began to emerge as the dust settled. Centered where the Stonewarden had sat now stood a Temple of Kilmorph. When the next disciple of the earth mother arrived in this village, they would find a more than receptive group of followers.
—Recollections of Marost Dzorad, 43rd Treasurer of the Merchants Guild of Khazak
The old Stonewarden was awakened abruptly by a knock on the temple door. He shook the sleep out of his eyes and opened the door, revealing a young man. “Temple services start at evening, my boy,” he said.
The newcomer mustered his courage. “I want to become a Thane, sir.”
The Stonewarden smiled at the earnestness of his visitor, recalling a time long, long ago when he had made a similar calling. “What time does the smith wake in the morning to light his furnace?”
“Sir? I don’t know, I don’t want to be a smith, I want to serve Kilmorph!”
“How does the merchant keep all his camels moving at the same pace? How does the King decide a man’s punishment? How does the miner know where to strike for ore? When must the baker remove his sweet bread to keep it from burning? What does the soldier do to keep his courage up before battle?” The boy stared back at the Stonewarden, who chuckled at last. “Kilmorph does not need service in the temple, youngling, but amongst her people. Work side by side with the smith, to learn his struggles and dreams. Travel with the merchant, and guide him through his temptations. Be beside the soldier as he dies, and the king as he orders the death of a guilty man. We of Kilmorph can mold the community together as the potter shapes the clay, for they will heed your advice only when they know you were once one of them.”
“How will I know when I am done?”
“You will know. Kilmorph will draw you back to me, and I will be ready to teach you how to draw on her power. A Stonewarden is able to move mountains—only when his people share his faith. So go, draw the people together and to Kilmorph, and when you return the earth itself will do your bidding.” The old man watched as his charge left hesitantly, then shuffled back and resumed his nap.
—From Chapter 4 of Reflections on the State Cults, by Elder Methyl of the Luonnotar