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|Title(s)||The Eternal Hunger, Master of the Pit, The Serpent Lord, The Sleeping Serpent, The Maker of Venom|
|Domains||Chaos, Destruction, Evil, Plant, Domination*, Mind*, Tyranny*|
In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, Merrshaulk is the yuan-ti deity of poison and somnolence. "Merrshaulk" is likely a dwarven rendering of his name; the yuan-ti pronounce the name more like "Mi-Shao-Shur," although they view it as too holy to pronounce around outsiders. The god's holy symbol is a cobra's head.
Merrshaulk manifests as a vast yuan-ti abomination with a male human head and stubby forearms. He has begun to decline into slumber, spending years barely conscious within his snake-infested Abyssal pit. The yuan-ti have declined with him; they believe they can awaken him, however, with enough sacrifice and acts of depravity. Then he will shed his skin and devour the world.
Couatl believe Merrshaulk inevitably declines as he separates from the archetypal core of the universe.
Merrshaulk is a variation of the World Serpent archetype, like Shekinester, Io, Jazirian, and even Ramenos. He considers Jazirian to be his nemesis. His relationship with Tlaloc, who claims to have created the yuan-ti of Oerth, is unknown.
Merrshaulk shares its slumbering realm of Smaragd on the 74th layer of the Abyss with Ramenos.
Merrshaulk encourages competition within each caste in order to ensure that only the most qualified leaders come to the fore. Every act of gratuitous cruelty and suffering committed by the yuan-ti brings the Sleeping Serpent closer to awakening. The more ingenious the plan, the more power it brings. The more intelligent beings hurt and traumatized, the better.
Only gratuitous evil helps awaken the Sleeping Serpent. If the evil brings tangible benefits to the yuan-ti (other than pleasure), it only brings those benefits. Protecting their lairs or finding food are important, but for them to be sacred they must do more. Therefore, the atrocities committed by the yuan-ti are not selfish in nature. They murder, desecrate, and undermine governments. The fact that they love doing these things is incidental.
The yuan-ti religious code forbids them from harming other reptiles, however. They need not lay down their lives for reptiles, but they cannot eat or otherwise harm them. They abhor cannibalism.
Merrshaulk is revered by yuan-ti, ophidians, and some spirit nagas who have rejected Shekinester.
Of all yuan-ti, only the Shan-Pachan, the human-headed yuan-ti abominations, may become priests. In addition, priests of Merrshaulk are exclusively male. They must be skillful ambushers and defenders of lairs.
Temples of Merrshaulk are typically made of dark stone or caverns beneath the earth. They are lined with columns depicting serpents devouring humanoids, or of humans transforming into serpents. In the center are pits of writhing snakes.
Yuan-ti temples normally have ramps instead of stairs. For protection, they often have very narrow entrances that only snakes can slither through.
The Sagacious Slumber is a month-long period of hibernation in the middle of winter, immediately preceded by an orgy of eating. Immediately following the Slumber is the Shedding, in which the yuan-ti shed their skins while sacrificing intelligent beings to their god. The Shedding is followed by a period of particularly energetic activity.
Myths and legends
A World Remade
The yuan-ti believes that after Merrshaulk awakes and devours everything, they will be left as the rulers of the world. However, they do not believe much will be left of the world to rule. They accept this because of their devotion to their deity and because of the visceral pleasure they get out of the atrocities they commit in his name.
Merrshaulk in the Forgotten Realms
In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, Merrshaulk is known under the alias of Sseth. He is currently in a permanent hibernation due to the betrayal of his Sarrukh followers. His portfolio has been taken over by Set, the Mulhorandi god of evil, although the yuan-ti still thinks their prayers are answered by Merrshaulk himself.
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- Boyd, Eric L. Powers & Pantheons. Renton, WA: TSR, 1997.
- Conforti, Steven, ed. Living Greyhawk Official Listing of Deities for Use in the Campaign, version 2.0. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005. Available online:
- Laws, Robin D. "Venom and Coil." Dragon #305. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2003.
- Smith, Lester W., and Wolfgang Baur. Planes of Chaos. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.