This page contains spoilers for the following products: Shadows of Gallowspire.
|Headquarters||Gallowspire & Ghasterhall, Virlych, Ustalav|
|Goals||Pursuit of personal power, promotion of undeath|
|Members||Cultists, necromancers, undead|
|Images of Whispering Way|
Source: The Inner Sea World Guide, pg(s). 237
The Whispering Way is a cruel and secret organization and philosophy promoting undeath that has been active for thousands of years. The tenets are whispered one to another and never written down. The symbol of the Whispering Way is a gagged skull.
The Whispering Way is one of the oldest active organizations on Golarion, its origins stretching back to the Age of Darkness. Because of the organization's dependence on oral tradition, much of its early history is either lost or forgotten.
In the organization's nearly 10,000 year history, it has been credited with introducing several types of undead to Golarion. The primordial ancestors of all modern vampires—known as strigoi—are said to have first entered the Material Plane through a portal from the Shadow Plane opened by the Whispering Way. Agents of the Whispering Way may also be responsible for the creation of the first fexts on Golarion.
In 3203 AR, the organization's most powerful member, Tar-Baphon, rose from the dead as a lich and initiated the Whispering Way's golden age. Styling himself as the Whispering Tyrant, Tar-Baphon began for the first time to make the organization's vision of an undead utopia into a reality. He easily conquered Ustalav and the Hold of Belkzen and then began invading the neighboring countries in the hopes of attracting the attention of the god, Aroden. The Whispering Tyrant believed that humanity's rise during the Age of Enthronement was linked to the god, and that be defeating him in battle, Tar-Baphon could not only bring an end to all humans, but drive a stake into the living heart of Golarion itself.
His plan did not work. A collection of mortal states and peoples initiated the Shining Crusade and the defeated the Whispering Tyrant in 3827 AR; Aroden's attention remained focused elsewhere. The lich-king was imprisoned under his fortress of Gallowspire, and his armies were crushed in battle. Since this time, the Whispering Way has slowly rebuilt itself. Some members continue to accumulate personal power while others search for ways to free Tar-Baphon from his prison at Gallowspire.
The death of Aroden in 4606 AR caused members of the Whispering Way to wonder if the Whispering Tyrant had somehow succeeded in defeating his old foe after all. They finally decided that it really didn't matter who killed the god of humanity, and that Tar-Baphon's prediction had been accomplished and began preparing for the final death of the planet.
Tenets and dogma
The central message of the Whispering Way is that undeath is the truest form of existence. The undead know no pain or fear, and so have nothing to distract them from their pursuit of power. Living creatures are seen as pitiful, pointless beings too weak or stupid to escape the cycle of life and death. Unsurprisingly, the organization is heavily involved with necromancy.
The Whispering Way is a secret that is not, and cannot, be written down or otherwise recorded. Instead, it can only be passed down from person to person, and achieved through effort and machination. Each adherent holds a piece of this secret, and by networking amongst themselves and sharing their discoveries, they gain ever greater power over life and death. This is perhaps the only reason adherents ever work together in their competing quests for power.
At its most basic level, the secret of the Whispering Way is a formula for becoming a lich, and of all paths to undeath, lichdom is understood as the noblest. Liches are not only among the most powerful undead, they are perhaps the only that become undead solely by means of their own power, owing their existence to no other being. Most living members of the Whispering Way only remain so in the hopes that they will one day have the means to embrace lichdom.
The goal of the Whispering Way is not merely the transformation of its members into undead, however. All life is anathema to the Way, and few of its adherents are content with the idea of an eternity surrounded by the choas of living things. The ultimate vision of the Whispering Way is a dead world.
The Whispering Way has no formal structure. Instead, its members organize based on type of undeath, lines of philosophical inquiry, or religious affiliation. In some cases, these factions share research and work in concert, almost like departments in a university.
Technically, the organization does not have a leader. However, members of exceptional age, wealth, mastery of lore, or magical power typically gain the deference of their peers. Its most influential member was once Lucimar, known as the Lich-Wolf, until he was supplanted by Adivion Adrissant. After Adivion's defeat, the Whispering Way became even less coherent and more prone to infighting; currently, most of them take their orders from the Tyrant's highest-ranking servants like Jomah Gildais, Geir and Malyas.
The Whispering Way's membership is composed primarily of necromancers and intelligent undead. Membership in the Whispering Way is lifelong—its practices taint the soul such that those who defect rarely make it a year before crumbling to ash. Many members communicate in the Necril tongue, a language primarily used by ghouls.
Most adherents maintain a public face, typically occupying positions of authority in centers of arcane learning where they are able to gather magical lore and identify potential initiates. These members corrupt talented individuals with whispered promises of power and eternal existence.
Ancient undead lords known as lore keepers collectively safeguard much of the Whispering Way's accumulated knowledge, each keeper having memorized a single aspect of the organization's lore. The lore keepers serve as animate libraries, gathering eldritch lore from fellow adherents and dispensing it to the rest.
The organization's most infamous member is Tar-Baphon, the Whispering Tyrant. Many members continue to regard the Whispering Tyrant as their champion, and many are drawn to the Way by the legends of Tar-Baphon's mythic power.
Despite the Whispering Way's promotion of undeath, not all undead support the organization. Undead who depend on living prey, such as vampires and ghouls, may object to the Whispering Way's vision of a utopia devoid of life. This rift famously led the vampire lord Luvick Siervage to forsake the Whispering Tyrant near the close of the Shining Crusade.
The scope of the Whispering Way's activities is global, but their operations center on a handful of locations.
Powerful members of the Whispering Way make frequent claims that the cursed land of Virlych in western Ustalav is their sovereign territory, though none outside the organization recognize it as such. Nonetheless, members of the Whispering Way make frequent pilgrimages to this land. These pilgrims usually travel to Gallowspire, Tar-Baphon's prison and the spiritual center of the Whispering Way, though they frequently also stop at Ghasterhall to pay their respects to Lucimar.
For additional resources, see the Meta page.
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