Cult of the Black Earth
The earth cult worships the implacable strength and unyielding resistance of elemental earth. Cultists seek the power to destroy the works of civilization with landslides, sinkholes, or mighty earthquakes, thus demonstrating the true power of elemental earth and the futility of resistance. Earth cultists see mines, quarries, and tilled fields as insults imposed upon the living rock and soil. They believe the earth thirsts for the blood of those who don't venerate it before all other powers and beings.
The Cult of the Black Earth appeals to those who draw their fortunes from the earth-directly or indirectly. In areas where the influence of Elemental Evil takes hold, animals and monsters that live or burrow in the ground accept the cultists as allies. Creatures such as ankhegs or bulettes, normally too stupid and ravenous to be trained, submit to the will of the Black Earth. The monsters allow themselves to be herded or ridden into battle against the enemies of the cult.
The Sign of the Black Earth
The symbol of the earth cult signifies purpose and stability. Cultists sometimes identify themselves with a hand gesture: they make a triangle by touching the thumbs and forefingers of both hands together.
Tactics and Philosophy
The Black Earth cult is the most defense-minded and patient of the four elemental cults. Earth cultists admire stoicism, endurance, and unyielding resolve. They are deliberate and slow to act, careful to consider their plans and gather their strength before beginning any new enterprise. Once earth cultists resolve to act, they are inflexible, grinding their way forward through any obstacle or unforeseen development. They are single-minded in the extreme, and most earth cultists have little use for social niceties. They see common courtesy as a way for the weak to put limits on the behavior of the strong, and they scorn empathy or friendship as weakness.
In battle, Black Earth cultists are brutal and straightforward. They overpower foes with direct assaults, although if they have the opportunity to undermine defenses or attack from below, they unhesitatingly put their skill at tunneling and mastery of burrowing monsters to good use. They are unflinching in the face of death. Surrender is never an option.
Earth cultists live and work underground. They craft weapons from stone or iron and "bathe" themselves in sand or dirt to feel close to their favored element. Black Earth initiates know the secret of creating armor from magically shaped stone, and even their robes include stone pauldrons or masks.
Prophet of Earth
A medusa named Marlos Urnrayle leads the Black Earth cult. He wields the elemental weapon Ironfang, a war pick infused with the power of Ogremoch, the Prince of Evil Earth. Marlos is vain and cruel, an extreme narcissist who delights in surrounding himself with objects of beauty and luxurious comforts. Beneath this sneering self-assurance lies a bitter being who loathes himself and holds everyone around him in contempt.
Marlos began life as a human aristocrat, born into a wealthy Cormyrean family. He squandered his familys wealth on endless self-indulgence, seeking more questionable forms of entertainment through the years. The Urnrayle estate became known as a place of outrageous masquerades, bizarre banquets, and grotesque orgies. Marlos required his guests to don ugly or monstrous masks, thus ensuring that no ones beauty would outshine his own.
As he aged, Marlos turned to magic to preserve his fading beauty. After searching for years, he found a ring that contained the stolen vitality of a lovely fey creature. As long as he wore the ring, his imperfections vanished and no one could resist his physical charms-until the day the ring transformed Marlos into a medusa. The horror of his fate drove Marlos mad. He fled his ancestral home, taking his collection of masks with him.
After years of wandering and hiding in one ruined estate or another across the Western Heartlands, Marlos felt drawn to the desolate Sumber Hills by troubling dreams and visions. A long stairway beneath a ruined monastery brought him to an ancient cavern with a hideous altar, upon which lay a war pick of iron. When the medusa claimed Ironfang, his purpose finally became clear to him. He established his lair in the dungeon nearby and began building the Cult of the Black Earth.
Unlike many of his followers, Marlos is genteel and well-spoken. He delights in witty banter and pointed repartee, although he is quick to make a cutting remark or jest at someone elses expense. Marlos takes pleasure in mocking others, especially if he can do so in a clever or elegant way. Marloss previous life had been a constant search for pleasure, but the only thing that now stirs his loveless soul is refined cruelty. He can be driven to fits of blind, unreasoning jealousy if he is outshone by another urbane and attractive individual.
Enemies and Allies
The Black Earth cultists are highly suspicious of the Cult of Howling Hatred. They believe that the air cultists are mercurial, unreliable, and generally out of touch with reality. The earth cultists respect the strength and ferocity of the Eternal Flame followers, but also find them maddeningly inconstant. Black Earth cultists ally most often with the Crushing Wave, since they admire the patience and pragmatism of the water cultists.