Nightrealms Carrion Crown
The Whispering Way
Embracing the very antithesis of life, the Whispering Way calls the ambitious and unscrupulous to embrace a simple, fatalistic philosophy: life holds no value, and its extinction is the gateway to a golden age of order and immortality. Far more than nihilists, adherents of the Whispering Way view the passage into undeath not as a curse or a punishment, but rather the greatest transcendence a living creature can experience. To the Whispering Way, life is a drain on the ecology and a wasteful expense mortals must endure before passing beyond the veil of death.
The Whispering Way as a philosophy cannot be learned from tomes or demonstrated for new members; it can only be told, passed in breathless gasps from dusty mouths to the ears of those yet to transition beyond their fragile lives. At its most basic level, it is the exaltation of the path to undeath, primarily in the form of lichdom. Liches are idealized beyond all other undead because of the difficulty and potential lethalness of the transformation, yet also because only those with the drive and genius to discover their unique path to lichdom can attain such grim immortality. Yet more than just seeking a path to personal power, the Whispering Way seeks to change the world, viewing Golarion as a chaotic, dangerous place, besieged by its own diversity of creatures, cultures, and possibilities. Under the rule of worthy undead princes, all the world might be cleansed, leaving it an ordered realm of death, but not of quiet rot. Rather, they see an eternal world unified by a united state, purpose, consistency, and peace.
No written doctrine or any one voice extols the Whispering Way. Just as the path to lichdom is unique for every individual, so too is the vision of the world to come and the path to that grim perfection. The group shuns written forms of their philosophies, and any reported tomes detailing their traditions end up being only the lies and ramblings of nonbelievers or exiled necromancers. The Whispering Way’s followers actively seek this literature in order to destroy it. The philosophy’s most precious secrets strictly pass from dry tongue to ears eager for enlightenment. Followers form sects within the greater philosophy, sharing their knowledge among peers and seeking to prepare the world for their unique visions of its inevitable demise. For centuries, many adherents of the Whispering Way have idealized their path’s most infamous member, Tar-Baphon, known as the Whispering Tyrant.
Although the legendary lich-king failed in his attempt to slay Aroden, patron god of humanity, and so begin the ruin of the world, the age since has seen the Tyrant’s ambitions fulfilled. Thus, many of the Whispering Way’s members believe they live upon the threshold of their dead utopia, and no longer seek ways to bring ruin to the world, but rather aspire to elevate their own places in the inevitable promised land. Now, as the Way whispers through the shadows of ages, its proscriptions of death and undead perfection bear not just the fatalism of those prepared to die, but the eagerness of those committed to rising as rulers amid a new world of the dead.
The origins of the Whispering Way are cloaked in shadows—the deepest of shadows, in fact, as the earliest evidence of this fatalistic philosophy stems from the Age of Darkness. None can say who first turned pursuit of a deathless immortality into the dogma of a morbid cult, and likely the Way evolved organically through generations of like-minded necromancers, their apprentices, vulnerable adherents, and brainwashed slaves. Few will ever know the atrocities committed under the veil of Golarion’s darkest epoch, but the fact that depraved souls commanded such influence that their ghastly obsessions passed from the realm of delusion into doctrine, attracting the traumatized minds of the era and persisting through the ages, offers but a hint of that era’s unrivaled terror.
The Whispering Way claims no founder, prophet, or divine muse; the Way merely is and exists as a realization to be grasped by those intelligent, realistic, insightful, and ambitious enough to fathom it. It needs history and mythology no more than do mathematical principles or physical laws, and by the same right, requires no belief to be true. Those who understand it accept it as fact and work to attain the stagnant utopia idealized at its heart. Those who don’t instead fear it and the fundamental changes it means for the living world, being more willing to embrace death’s ultimate oblivion than to divest themselves of the ephemeral comforts of a chaotic world. Such are the understandings of the Way, and its adherents require no greater pedigree or reason to pursue its objectives than the promise of the dark powers and immortal influence they’ll wield in the idealized corpse-world of their dreams.
None can doubt the impact of the Whispering Way’s most terrifying adherent, the Whispering Tyrant, upon the very philosophy he rose to power pursuing. During the Age of Enthronement, the wizard-king Tar-Baphon learned of the Whispering Way and wished to use their secrets for his own. Seeking these mysteries, he eventually converted to the Way, becoming one of the most visible and well-known adherents in the history of the group. After his defeat by his greatest enemy, the living god Aroden, Tar-Baphon eventually returned to the world as a powerful lich, gaining the moniker the Whispering Tyrant. To this day, the Whispering Way continues to occupy the lands near the site of the wizard-king’s imprisonment in Gallowspire, their most prominent bastion being the dreaded monastery of Renchurch nearby. While most adherents continue to seek their own unique paths to undeath and furthering the Way’s goals, many see Tar-Baphon as the order’s champion and believe his restoration to be the surest way of hastening the world’s end. Especially with the death of the god Aroden, many view the imprisoned Tyrant as a fallen king, and seek to release him to claim a world terrified by but grimly expectant of his return.