Many years ago, there lived a man named Thal. Though poor, he had a large family who loved him, and he was always happy.
Then war came to his nation, and in only a few weeks, he lost every member of his family. All gone. In utter despair, he gave up all his possessions and devoted himself to prayer to the gods, asking them for guidance. After years of wandering through the wilderness, he came near to death, still begging the gods for their aid. And a god reached down and laid its hand on him.
Thal was filled with the power of this god and was transformed. He walked the earth, his once stooped back straight as a rod, his body full of energy and passion, preaching to all who would hear to give up their material lives and devote themselves entirely to the gods. He showed them the red hand print now emblazoned on his body. His devotees, after rejecting all possessions except a simple robe and devoting themselves to prayer and fasting, found themselves marked similarly and filled with power. They could heal the sick and curse the wicked. They soon called themselves the Hallowed Flesh.
Those who profited from their miracles attempted to donate money and build temples for them, but they rejected such offerings. They lived pure lives, and did much good in the world.
Then Thal died.
The lay followers of the cult offered to build a monument to Thal. The remaining members, while uncomfortable with this, could find no harm in this: the monument would be owned by nobody. Soon, a twice-life-size statue within a large but simple stone chamber was built near Thal's original home town, and the man himself buried beneath it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people began to feel strange power emanating from the monument. The sick began to visit it, then lay there for days in hopes of healing. Other buildings nearby were cleared and shelters erected.
Time went on and the legend grew, as did the monument itself. The next member of the Hallowed Flesh who died was buried in a similar fashion, and her resting place yielded its own divine power.
More years passed, which brings us to today. Every city has at least one monument to the Hallowed Flesh, and they've become sprawling complexes full of penitents, zealots, the ill, and those who prey on the first three. You can buy any tincture, ointment, prayer bead, religious artifact, and hair from a saint that you can think of from the merchants who wander the monuments, some of which have grown to the size of a city block.
The upper echelons of society increasingly seek out members of the Hallowed Flesh as advisers, and often invite them to social gatherings. Simply being seen with one can bring prestige to the leader of a movement or head of a merchant house.
As a friendly faction, the Hallowed Flesh simply operates as a severe religious order, similar to the more extreme Buddhist or Hindu monks. Its members make excellent temporary NPC party members as they travel from one city to another, and the construction or expansion of a monument may need a variety of resources that lay devotees of the cult will gladly pay adventurers to procure.
As a foe faction, the Hallowed Flesh is now transitioning from a tight-knit covey of noble purists to a decadent society of zealots tied to worldly affairs. Its members often take on more or less permanent roles as advisers to major nobles, still technically eschewing possessions but taking full advantage of their patrons' resources. They vigorously expand their monuments into public palaces, taking away land from those who might need it. And those who murmur against them soon find themselves under increased scrutiny from a nobility that's tightly intertwined with the Hallowed Flesh. It's become a society of Rasputins.
- The Monument to Zin, a ten thousand square-foot stone structure of interlocking cubic rooms, has become so overcrowded that it must expand. It must be built out of marble blocks, for Zin died while living with a group of marble cutters. Unfortunately, the nearest marble quarry is currently infested with goblins, and the noble fronting the bill (Zora Mandahar) will pay adventurers well for clearing them out. (It turns out the goblins believe there's an object holy to their god deep in the mine.)
- The PCs enter a small town, one famous for its gambling den, the Black Banderhobb. Three members of the Hallowed Flesh arrived here several weeks ago, began proselytizing, and are beginning to win converts. This annoyed Jonas Tremaine, owner of the gambling den, and last night he had goons rough them up. The townsfolk discovered that this morning, became incensed, and they demand justice from the sheriff, Pitr. Pitr fears a riot on one hand and nasty recriminations from Tremaine on the other, and would gladly hire the PCs to both perform an impartial investigation and deal with the consequences.