- "Revered One, Venerable One, Lord of Secrets, High Priest of the Temple of Years, Keeper of the Pyramid of Eternity, Interpreter of Mysteries, Prophet of the Lord of the Tomb, Master of Awakenings, Bearer of the Serpent Staff, Khatep, the Enduring."
The Liche Priests are the undying members of Nehekhara's Mortuary Cult, and they hold the secrets to unlife. They know the rituals needed to draw forth spirits from the Realm of Souls and bind them once more into corporeal bodies. It is the Liche Priests who rouse the Tomb Kings and their courts from their slumber and awaken their armies for war. Liche Priests are also the keepers of Nehekhara's arcane lore. Through ritualistic incantations, they call upon the power of ancient gods to bestow blessings upon the warriors of the Tomb Kings, infusing their ancient bones with magical energy. Similarly, Liche Priests cast terrible curses upon their foes, summoning vengeful desert spirits to feast on their souls.[2a]
In their desire to defy death, the kings of Nehekhara founded the Mortuary Cult and appointed the priesthood, of which the Liche Priests are all that remain. The priests were commanded to study the arts of mummification and communion with the gods.[1a] Steadily, over many centuries, the priests learned how to preserve a corpse from decay until the art of embalming had become very elaborate. The priesthood also devised a vast lore of magical incantations and rituals intended to bind the souls of the dead kings back into their royal bodies[2a], enabling them, as well as their entire courts and armies, to be awakened from death. The first generations of priests, whose skills and knowledge were rudimentary, died after prolonging their own lives far beyond their natural span. They passed on their knowledge to the next generation of priests who exceeded them in wisdom and expertise. In this way, their knowledge accumulated until the fifth generation of priests who did not die, though their bodies slowly withered away until they were little more than living corpses.[1a] Since a king depended on the Mortuary Cult's knowledge and loyalty in order to live beyond his own death, the Liche Priests held great power in ancient Nehekhara. Indeed, Liche Priests were the only subjects who could not be executed.[1a][2a] In this way, the priesthood became a formidable power behind many thrones. The Liche Priests acted as advisors and viziers to the kings of Nehekhara, and their status was second only to that of the ruling families.[2a]
In addition to the rituals of summoning, Liche Priests have many duties to perform in the necropolis, including renewing the seals upon the portals of the tomb vaults, maintaining the incantations of preservation, remaking inscriptions which have become eroded by wind blown sand, determining the moment of a Tomb King's awakening and consulting the spirit of the Tomb King by means of oracles.[1a][2a] The Liche Priests continue to perform these duties for centuries because they cannot die a natural death, cursed forever by their own lust for immortality: Long ago, the Liche Priests used their accumulated knowledge to trap their own souls within their bodies, and in doing so they extended their lives far beyond those of mortal men. However, whilst their spirits never passed into the Realm of Souls, their bodies have withered with the passing of centuries, and it is their spirit alone that now animates their forms. Without realising it, the entire priesthood cursed itself — not to eternal life, but to eternal undeath. Liche Priests' physical bodies are now little more than withered corpses.[2a]
When Settra calls for war, the Liche Priests gather to answer the call. Hunched and frail, their dry, wizened skins are stretched like old parchment over their brittle skeletons. Each is garbed in an elaborate headdress, and clutched in their skeletal hands are ritual knives and rune-inscribed staffs, which act as both the Liche Priests' crutches and symbols of office. The Liche Priests believe the Winds of Magic to be the breath of their gods, a power that connects the mortal world to the realms beyond. The magical incantations of Nehekhara's Liche Priests have been perfected over millennia, and they have remained unchanged since that time.[2a]
The wording of each and every incantation is recorded on dusty papyrus scrolls written in the mysterious hieroglyphs of Nehekhara's ancient language. Uttered in long, monotonous rituals, the incantations of the Liche Priests must be precisely pronounced, for the slightest mistake can incite the wrath of the gods. It is not unknown for the angered deities to snap the bones of the offending Liche Priest, set his form ablaze or even rend his soul asunder as punishment — such are the risks when harnessing the power of gods.[2a]
Liche High Priests
Each necropolis, with the burial pyramids of the Tomb Kings at its core, has a temple dedicated to Nehekhara's Mortuary Cult. Here reside the Liche High Priests served by many lesser priests. Only the High Priests have been initiated into the deepest secrets of the cult...[2a]