[excerpt from Encyclopaedia Theologica: A Panoptic Primer on the Pantheon, Planes, and Patrons of Ylan, 5th ed., by the gnomish scholar Miriam Busslewickett]
Defender of Life, Destroyer of Undead, Scourge of Necromancy
Category: Patron (other)
Poles of alignment: Entropic Good (major), Creative Good (minor)
Plane of existence: Transcendence
Emblems: trident and net
Although the true historical biography of the man now worshipped as St. Bane may forever be lost to the mists of time, most scholars agree on a number of specific facts regarding his origin and life on the Prime Material plane. Born circa [~1500 yrs ago] in a tiny fishing village in the Kingdom of Delos, his given name was Niklas (variously rendered as Nikola, Nicholas, Niko, Niilo, Mikula, Nicu). He was a Halfling, born to a clan of modest but hardy fisherfolk – likely the common ancestors of the modern Hakala and Eloranta clans, who both claim Niklas as their own. The boy grew up isolated from the rest of Ylan by the elements and landscape, raised as a fisherman and sailor, sustained by the bounty of the sea. The sagas uniformly portray his early life as austere, but simple and idyllic.
His ascent to worldly and metaphysical prominence began after the destruction of his homeland by the ritual experimentations of the necromancer Ælrik Benzelius (cf. Benzelius – Patron (other) – Creative Evil). During what became known thereafter as the Time of Torment (alternatively, the Days of Glass and Bone), the region surrounding Benzelius’ tower was razed and transformed by a series of eruptions and a subsequent infestation of dark energy resulting from necromantic research. Niklas returned from a months-long voyage at sea to find an unholy wasteland of obsidian glass where his beloved beach community once stood, his family and clan transmogrified into wandering, shambling, flesh-eating skeletons – or worse.
Numerous sagas recount episodes from the decades of warfare between Niklas and Benzelius that followed. The oldest remaining art of the period depicts Niklas bathed in light and armed with the tools of his fishing trade, trident and net, locked in mortal combat with various creatures of darkness. Even during his own lifetime, Niklas’ unwavering hatred of all forms of undead – and his prowess in defeating them – became legendary. He was himself a devout follower of the Halfling racial Patron Tillith, and gave her all credit for his accomplishments. However, he became known in his own right as the Bane of the Undead, or simply the Bane. The sagas generally culminate in an account of his final confrontation with Benzelius (by then, an arch-lich of immense power), ending with the destruction of Benzelius’ phylactery and, with it, the foothold of his power and presence in the Prime Material plane.*
The Church of St. Bane
Niklas died or disappeared due to unknown causes shortly after his final confrontation with Benzelius, and it is popularly accepted that he was thereafter elevated to the Transcendent plane, where he now resides as the Patron known St. Bane. During his lifetime, he developed a substantial following not only among the warrior classes who joined him in fighting the undead, but also among the common folk. Naturally, that process only accelerated after his Transcendence, quickly coalescing into an organized religion and church structure. Today, the Church consists of one primary denomination, worshipping St. Bane the Destroyer, and two smaller denominations.
The Order of St. Bane the Destroyer
The followers of St. Bane (“Banites”) most often appear as clerics and paladins singularly devoted to the destruction of all forms of undeath and the necromancy that creates it. These followers have established permanent churches in many cities, and also travel the land in small groups to root out and eliminate the undead. Priests of all stripes routinely seek the expertise and power of Banites upon hearing even rumors of undead presence. Common folk often invoke the protection of St. Bane by tracing his holy symbol (the trident) as a ward against all forms of evil. Fairy tales and other stories of monsters in the dark often include a Banite hero triumphing over vampires and other abominations. Popular legend holds that Destroyer Banites are initiated into their Order by being thrown into unarmed, one-on-one combat with an undead creature, which many do not survive. Members of this Order are often solitary, humorless, and single-minded, never fully comfortable except in direct battle with their foes. This Order is strongly aligned with the Entropic Good position of the metaphysical spectrum, and depicts St. Bane as a holy warrior in the service of Uberlin and sometimes Erebus.
The Order of St. Bane the Redeemer
A much smaller but still substantial denomination of the Church focuses on the redemptive, life-affirming aspects of St. Bane’s legacy. These Banites emphasize their Patron’s recorded sermons celebrating the life force as a power that can transform even undeath. Redeemers prioritize the creation and nurturing of life itself as a primary weapon in the eternal war against undeath. Redeemer iconography prominently features St. Bane’s use of the net as a means of restraint, allowing light and the life force to transform and redeem evil. This Order was founded upon a historical tale of St. Bane’s mercy towards a lesser necromancer, the elf sorceress Ulrika, who was spared and became St. Bane’s sister-in-arms (some say lover) in the battle against Benzelius. Redeemers are more closely aligned with the Creative Good end of the metaphysical spectrum, usually depicting St. Bane as a bringer of Muriel’s light.
The Order of St. Bane the Unifier
More recently, a third Order of the Church has been gaining prominence, emphasizing the many stories of St. Bane’s efforts to unify disparate forces in his battles against evil. These Banites cite the example of Ulrika as well as the character of St. Bane’s first known follower, the dwarven priest Kazimir, who fought bravely alongside St. Bane until sacrificing himself in the final battle with Benzelius. Unifier Banites venerate the trident as the symbol of a holy trinity, each prong representing one of three metaphysical concepts or qualities: destruction, creation, and harmony; the Oblivion, Transcendent, and Prime Material planes; or simply heaven, earth, and life. Emperor Nyphron himself recently showed favor to this upstart denomination, finding them politically useful, if nothing else.
Followers of the Destroyer denomination well outnumber the others, and many folk (even among the educated) are unaware the other Orders even exist. The three Orders co-exist in peace with each other, although there seems to be no shortage of healthy debate between and among them. They appear to be wholly undivided and cooperative on one foundational point: opposition to undeath and the use, even study, of necromancy. The Orders appear to sometimes disagree only on the method, not the importance, of combatting such evil.
Followers of the three denominations can be recognized by their distinct rendering of St. Bane’s trident icon: Destroyers are represented by a flaming trident; Redeemers, by a trident wrapped in a golden net; Unifiers, by a trident holding three interlocked rings.
The Churches of St. Bane and Tillith generally consider themselves close allies, and have partnered with each other on several notable occasions throughout history.
*_Ed. note_: Of course, the followers of Benzelius repudiate this version of events, claiming instead that Benzelius chose this moment to voluntarily Transcend, and that he/it continues to amass and wield dark power from the Transcendent plane to this day.