For the right price, anyone can be buried like a king or queen.
Khalan-Rah was a particularly inquisitive priest of a minor deity that found himself questioning the death and burial practices of his order. In fact he questioned the nature of death in and of itself. Where do souls actually go? Does it even matter what is done with the physical remains? What difference do the rituals make? His curiosity moved him to separate from his religiosity and explore the length and breadth of the land in search of answers across cultures.
Most religions and cults were put off by Khalan-Rah’s insistence on sticking his nose into private or secret ceremonies, and even as he gathered followers, his nascent cult was pushed out of the core of most communities and into the fringes. Over time the Cult of Khalan-Rah developed into a religion of its own, centered on the exploration of burial practices and their connection to the next world. Since seeking donation and support as a religion in civilized areas became difficult, Khalan-Rah instead made the choice to begin offering burial as a service. His deep knowledge of burials across many cultures meant that he could offer a vast variety of internment options tailored to an individual’s needs.
Seeking a base of operations, Khalan-Rah and his most devoted acolytes found a suitable location in the forested foothills. Remote enough to offer protection from prying eyes, there was a suitable hill they could turn into a massive burial-mound-for-hire. To support their operation, they built a fortress on the edge of a ravine that would serve as the entry point into the fortified tomb complex. Attached to the fortress is the Tower of Cleansing Flames, their crematorium for those wishing to have their remains disposed of in that manner.
Across the ravine, a town was founded to support the burial industry of Khalan-Rah. A walled and raised boulevard extends from the gate on the west, across a ceremonial bridge, connecting with the keep on the other side. Those clients desiring a procession as part of their burial services are carried across this bridge and into their tomb within the mound. An inner walled area of the city serves as the preparation area for the dead, and various businesses, taverns, and inns surround that inner keep, catering to visitors and their needs during the time of burial (which can go on for days or weeks in some cases). In addition to accommodating the dead, the cult has a knack for making family, friends, and sycophants feel at ease in the lap of luxury…for an additional fee, of course.
To keep the treasures and remains of their clients safe from grave robbers and those wishing to disturb their eternal rest, the cult’s Dead Watch keeps an eye on the entire operation. Led by a cadre of powerful necromancers and mages proficient in the construction of magical automatons, the Watch consists of undead guards and constructs of various types that maintain a constant vigil in the city, the mound, and the tombs within. In addition, powerful magical seals and wards cover the entire region, alerting the Watch when trespassers come poking around.
Khalan-Rah himself has not been seen for many years. Some speculate that he has passed away himself and is entombed within his creation. Others claim he has unlocked the secrets to eternal life, whether through lichdom or some other means. Regardless of the man’s final fate, his legacy continues in the burial cult that bears his name.
The original idea for this map was this image I came across depicting some sort of machine-generate/plotted image that to me evoked a burial mound of some kind. The trench in the middle kind of looked like a ravine or canyon, and my imagination took it from there.
In the process video from Procreate you can see how I developed this one. I struggled a bit with how to render the hill/burial mound, and I’m not very happy with how the coloring turned out, but I’m still figuring the whole process out. This is really only the fourth map I’ve made on the iPad, so I’ve still got a long way to go.
How might the Burial Mound of Khalan-Rah and its burial cult fit into your fantasy world? Drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter. Follow me on Instagram for more like this, and occasional previews of upcoming work. A high-res (3600px x 2700px) version of this map is available to my patrons.
Maps & Tales is supported by patrons just like you.
I have been and will continue to release content here—free for personal use—on a regular basis for as long as I possibly can. When you become a patron through Patreon, you'll be helping me sustain this effort. You'll be helping me upgrade my tools and devote more of my personal time to creating high-quality content for your enjoyment. As thanks, I've got a few extra goodies for you, including exclusive content for patrons and custom maps—just for you!.