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Elminster Speaks - Part 11
By Ed Greenwood
Into the Dark Suns Embrace
Formally known as "the Hand of the Dark One" (a title unchanged from its days as a stone personally consecrated by Bane himself), the altar is a smooth-surfaced, rectangular block of black stone as large as a wagon. It is laid crosswise to the long approach aisle, right at the front of the sanctum (at the head of the seven steps that ascend from the benches of the faithful). During services, this altar is customarily flanked by two man-high lit metal tripod braziers and covered with items used during rituals, and sometimes by sacrifices.
At other times, offerings are placed upon the altar by worshippers who are allowed to approach it only within a girdle of chains held by watchful priests. This ritual denotes the pious humility of the supplicant submitting to the control of the god, but the priests will haul on the chains without hesitation to snatch a supplicant away from the altar to prevent defiling the altar or pilfering of the other offerings from it. (Defilement is usually by spitting on the altar, but can also be by suffering it to be touched by something consecrated to another god. Most often this is a weapon used to strike the altar, but it can be deliberately-spilled holy water--which often causes strange, shrieking fires to arise where it touches--or even an unwittingly-placed item of offering.)
Voonlarrans believe that the massive altar can be shoved aside to reveal a treasure-pit heaped with the bones of all temple priests whove died in town, who are customarily interred therein to yield undead guardians for the temple. Moving the altar would take many strong people, straining together. However, lay servants have confirmed that yokes and pry-beams are kept ready at the back of the temple, providing substance to the rumor.
Adventuring bands have twice reported that the carved Sun can emit rays of ravening magical power from its eyes and the tips of its rays. These effects demonstrably occur under the direct control of priests standing in the sanctum. One of these witnesses, the mage Hastaltun of Athkatla from Kalamdaers Hands (once of Athkatla and more recently of Ormath) believes that these defenses derive from the unleashed powers of a number of wands mounted in the carving; the wands are enchanted to allow them to be aimed and triggered from below, probably by any beings wearing one of several control devices (enspelled armbands seem most likely). On the other hand, the warrior Halver Durstread, of the same band, swears that a death tyrant or other magically-controlled beholder must be imprisoned within the carving, and magically compelled to unleash its powers under priestly commands.
Whatever the truth of the matter, its clear that "the Dark Blessed" (as the clergy of the temple are collectively called) can call on accurate beams of magical force, no larger across than a mans hand, to stab out all over the Hallowed Hall from either the Sun, the altar, or somewhere else in or over the sanctum, at their direction, against any being they deem dangerous--and that on occasions one priest of the temple has used these powers against one of his fellow priests, though this has demonstrably involved some sort of intense mental struggle for control of the temple magics.
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