ORCUS, DEMON PRINCE OF THE UNDEAD, is one of the most powerful demons in the Abyss—powerful enough to threaten gods. He commands legions of followers, living and dead, and cults dedicated to him are terrifyingly widespread in the natural world.
Orcus carries a heavy mace tipped with an enormous skull. Known as the Wand of Orcus, this weapon transforms those it slays into undead horrors. Its haft is smooth obsidian studded with blood rubies. Dead creatures respond to the presence of Orcus, even without his command. Skeletal arms claw up from the ground where he walks and grab at the feet of his foes. Spirits fill the air with a ghostly chorus of piteous moans, tugging at his foes and hindering their movement.
Like many of the most powerful demon lords who struggle for power in the Abyss, Orcus started his existence as a mortal on the Prime Plane. He was apparently a wicked spellcaster of some sort, most probably a priest to some dark deity. After his death, his soul, like the souls of all chaotic evil mortals, went to the Abyss and Orcus began his afterlife as a lowly larva.
Orcus proceeded to climb through the demonic ranks in the next several thousand years, going from larva to mane, from mane to dretch, from dretch to rutterkin, from rutterkin to vrock, from vrock to glabrezu, from glabrezu to nalfeshnee and eventually a balor. From there, he ascended to the rank of demon lord, becoming the Prince of the Undead and ruling the layer of Thanatos, the Belly of Death. Even though there are other demon lords aspiring to the title of Prince of the Undead, Orcus’ claim to the title went unchallenged for the most part. Ever hungry for more power, Orcus wanted to be recognized as “Prince of Demons”, a title held by Demogorgon and coveted also by Graz’zt. As a result, he became the arch-enemy of both demon lords. In time, Orcus also achieved true godhood.
Orcus became the patron of the Red Wizard Zhengyi in the 900s DR, aiding him in his quest to become a lich. Priests of Orcus supported Zhengyi in 1347 DR, when Zhengyi created the Castle Perilous, giving the lich control over many undead creatures. Zhengyi attacked Damara in 1348 DR, finally bringing it under his control in 1357 DR. Zhengyi lost his power when Gareth Dragonsbane and his company banished Orcus’s power from the realm by stealing his wand. Zhengyi’s undead army disintegrated along with Castle Perilous and Zhengyi the Witch-King was defeated.
Shortly afterward, Orcus was slain by the drow demi-goddess Kiaransalee, who took over rulership of Orcus’ layer of the Abyss and locked his (apparently restored) wand away in the last layer of Pandemonium. Kiaransalee decreed that Orcus’ name be erased from all existence.
Despite the drow demi-goddess’ efforts, Orcus was restored as an undead demon lord, renaming himself Tenebrous. As Tenebrous, Orcus discovered the Last Word, an utterance so powerful that it can destroy deities. The Last Word will also eventually kill those who know it unless the being is a true deity, and to restore himself to his lost divinity, Orcus went in search for his wand. During his search, Orcus killed several gods including Primus, God of the Modrons and Maanzecorian. Orcus’ efforts were stymied by a group of adventurers and Orcus was again destroyed, this time by the power of the Last Word. A cabal of greater deities, in response to Tenebrous’ predations, has since nullified the Last Word.However, Orcus was resurrected by Quah-Nomag, one of his foremost high priests and thralls, in a blasphemous ritual he enacted in the Astral Plane. Orcus then reclaimed his kingdom and his original name, re-proclaiming himself Prince of the Undead, despite his hatred of undead. However, as a result of his second death and resurrection, Orcus has lost his divinity and is now a demon lord again.
Our group ran into a priest of Orcus named Kalarel, who was attempting to open a rift between Orcus’s home plane and the Prime Material Plane.