The Skulls
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Brief History -

Formed in 1500 AH, by Cyrus Gregminister, the Skulls are an archaic cult devoted to one thing and one thing only.  Bringing about the end of the world.  Their members range from the lowest of common workingman to the highest business executive.  Outside of the cult, they are different.  Inside they are all equal and they all serve the same purpose.  To fulfill the goal of their Liege Lord, Cyrus Gregminister III.

Identification -

All members of the Skulls are given 'The Mark of Cyrus' to distinguish them when they make the pilgrimage to the Black Citadel every winter.  The 'Mark of Cyrus' is a spot on the shoulder blade that is permanent skin decay.  Each member has this identification mark, and it cannot be removed through bioengineering or cybernetic implants.  Any member having cyber or bio modification finds their body reacting to it stronger than most, pay double points in stamina/magery.

Recruitment -

Members of the Skulls are rare, ranging to about 5,000 living members.  Those chosen to become members of the Skulls, receive a vision of Cyrus making them the offer of membership.  Each person is hand selected by Cyrus who receives the information on the candidate through his network of shadow spies and other members.  If the candidate accepts the offer and becomes an agent of the Skulls, they are taken swiftly to the Black Citadel and immediately told all they need to know, after which they are asked a second time if they wish to continue.  If not, they are abandoned and killed.  If they wish to continue, they are taken before Cyrus himself, and given the Test.

The Test consists of the Walk of Faith and the Embrace of Death.  The first part is quite simple.  Cyrus resides in his throne room within the Black Citadel, and circling his throne is a wide chasm.  The candidate must trust that they are to survive for they were selected and walk across the chasm.  If the candidate lacks faith in Cyrus then they will plummet to their doom ending their life.  If this portion is passed then all that is left is for the candidate to receive the Embrace of Death.  Cyrus opens his arms to the candidate and embraces them into his following.  After the embrace is complete the candidate will feel a sharp pain on their shoulder as a small spot slowly begins to decay and rot.  If the decay and rot continues for more than 24 hours, then the candidate is killed and regarded as a failure.  If the decaying stops after 24 hours.. The candidate is returned home and told never to speak of what they have seen to anyone, family or friend.

The Black Citadel and the Pilgrimage

In the year 1800 AH, 300 years after the initial creation of the Skulls, a great Temple was erected on the site of the long forgotten Forest Temple on one of the southern islands.  This Temple was called the Temple of the Damned but as the number of followers, increased, additions were added and soon the Temple became known as the Black Citadel.  It is now rumored to be the headquarters for the Skulls but no official records shine truth on this rumor.  Those who have made ventures to this island return only to be locked in an asylum for babbling incoherently, and those who do not return in such a state, do not return at all.

Each member of the Skulls is required to do one thing each year.  That is to make a pilgrimage to the Black Citadel and pay homage to their Lord.  Servants that are more loyal quickly dispatch those who do not make this pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage is to ensure that all those who are trusted members still swear fealty to Cyrus and to the cause that he serves.  That cause being the swift coming of destruction, though things are currently in a stalemate due to the absence of magical energies.  The pilgrimage takes place every winter, as winter is the season when the majority of life dies off, and lasts for one month.  During this month in Black Citadel, each member is to commune with the dead and seek to find out what purpose they are to serve in the bringing about of oblivion.

The Undead Order

While the living members are woven into society, there remain the larger portions of the Skulls.  The living members have everyday lives and they work for their cause in shadow and secret.   Yet, within the confines of the Black Citadel, resides the undead army of the Lord of the Skulls.  Fashioned from the fallen warriors of wars past, and bound to this world by the necromantic arts of the Blood Magi in service to Cyrus, they are the key factor in the ranks of the Skulls.  While not as large and certainly not as powerful as the current military force of the living, the Undead Order is fierce.  They are already dead and so they fight vigorously as none have ever seen.  While the army of the living is equipped with hi-tech weaponry, the Undead Order is equipped with the tools of the damned.  Swords and Crossbows make for most of the weapons, while living Blood magi use the blood of those fallen in combat to fuel their power.  Rumors say that the Lord of the Skulls has been leaning toward fashioning a living army equipped with weapons capable of stealing the souls of their victims but that is an extreme rumor told by the drunkards.