Members of the Golgari Swarm lurk in the fungus-encrusted tunnels of Ravnica's undercity, and revere the natural cycles of life and death. They are the guild of reanimated rot, kudzu-encrusted corpses and mossy mausoleums. The Golgari believed you can't truly live until you die. With its vast horde of undead that served as both standing army and labor force, the Golgari operated in Ravnica's undercity, slowly taking over abandoned and derelict areas like a fetid slime mold.
The Golgari Swarm fuses the opposite values of life and death, fostering growth in Ravnica's decaying communities but also fostering decay in places of growth. The elves, zombies, insects, and undead/plant hybrids of the Golgari are like one massive growing, feeding organism, collectively spreading across the plane wherever they can fit. The Golgari provide a necessary service in Ravnica: they dispose of the carcasses civilization leaves behind, and mysteriously they also provide sustenance for the forgotten and the needy. They are the scavengers and decomposers at the fringes of the food chain, but yearn to be the predators at the top.
The Golgari preach that death is part of the natural cycle, which seems like a harmless and logical belief. However, they take it one step further, actually embracing death, and encouraging it to enhance and strengthen life. So they don't mind letting loose the occasional virulent plague. After all, all they're doing is speeding up the natural cycle so that Ravnica can be reborn after death into something better. It's not so much death itself that they like, but the rebuilding that comes afterwards.
The Golgari guild is organized more like a single organism than a collective. It has a nucleus or nerve center that drives the direction and growth of the guild, elements that collect nutrients and convert them into usable resources, defenses that fight off foreign bodies, and an instinctual drive to survive, reproduce, and overcome.
The Golgari guildmaster is currently Jarad Vod Savo, an undead necromancer who managed to revive himself after death. Jarad maintains a council of shamans and rogues called the Cilia. The Cilia act as a combination of advisory parliament and spy agency and rarely all convene publicly or together at once. In combination with Jarad's insect minions, they act as his sensory apparatus to know what the outer reaches of Golgari are doing and as a messenger service to deliver instructions. It might be that an individual Cilium might be considered of higher rank than another by Jarad, but none know those rankings beyond the guildmaster.
The Golgari guild might have more changes in leadership than other guilds. The guild believes in the importance of continuous cycles, understands that assassination is a valid means of political conquest, and knows that being alive is not a prerequisite to rule.
Factions and Servants
One of the most basic types of Golgari foot soldier is the plant zombie, a zombie of bone and tattered flesh held together with creeping vines, moss and fungus.
The Devkarin, elves of shadow, are a brooding, winsome, and often ambitious race of elves who represent one of the main power groups of the Golgari. Of all of Golgari's factions, the Devkarin press most for the expansion of Golgari territory; they feel that most of the other guilds do not have Ravnica's best interests at heart and that the more land consolidated in Golgari hands, the better. The Devkarin elves are ruled by a high priest known as a matka, sometimes for centuries at a time; Jarad's sister Savra was a former matka. The current matka is Zdenia, a severe, black-haired young woman whose hands and arms are tattooed with images of insects and spiders.
The Lotleth, the ranks of death, are the Golgari's irregular faction of undead, necromancers, fungus-binders, and other members associated with the restless dead. Although most Golgari undead are mindless fungal constructions maintained by necromantic magic, the Lotleth do have some more or less intelligent undead among them, plus a few higher-ranked necromancers who speak for the faction. Generally, the Lotleth serve as a labor force for the Golgari's constant program of reclamation and expansion, or as a weapon for Jarad or some shaman's personal agenda. Sentient beings among Lotleth feel used and underappreciated within the guild, and their numbers are larger than they seem. The current leader of the Lotleth is Wratislav, a skilled but conceited human necromancer who enjoys parading his undead retinue through the streets of Ravnica.
The Street Swarm, shepherds of the cycle, form Golgari's labor class, which helps drive the cycle of life and death by countless iterations of accelerating decay and seeding new life. This faction includes corpse scavengers, low-ranking street shamans, rot farmers, tunnel trolls, various elementals and fungal horrors, and most of the kraul (an insect-like race). Each neighborhood of Ravnica tends to have its own chapter of the Street Swarm, and each chapter is led by a local swarm-boss.
The Golgari Swarm is not an easy guild to lead; the unstoppable and constantly growing sub-factions of the guild are like mindless amoebas, each with its own agenda, and almost impossible to control. Jarad has held on to his position by bringing more power to the guild by actively reclaiming derelict districts of the plane. He knows the power-hungry Devkarin elves and the decomposing Lotleth undead will eventually dethrone him; in the meantime, he works to ensure a place on Ravnica for the Golgari and for his own family.
The Golgari Swarm was originally founded by Svogthir, the guild's parun. Rumors abound that Svogthir was never destroyed.
The Sisters of Stone Death, a trio of gorgons who claim oracular powers, led the guild before Savra's rise. But the dark-elf shaman Savra grew powerful enough to challenge them. After her death, her brother Jarad took control of the Golgari.
Breaking of the Guildpact
Being magically bound into one body, the Golgari guildmaster Savra is killed along with the Golgari parun Svogthir when Novijen gets destroyed by the raging Project Kraj. Savra's brother Jarad, killed by the Blood Witch Lyzolda, returns as a lich and becomes guildmaster of the Golgari.
After the dissolution of the guilds, the Golgari stayed more or less as they were. For 10,000 years, they had been the silent machine that kept the unsavory but essential parts of Ravnica running and knew no other life apart from the dank tunnels of the undercity.
Jarad maintains his power, quelling without mercy any rumblings of mutiny or dissent from the Teratogens. He bides his time, knowing that the surface world is suffering without the structure and support of the guilds, and it is only a matter of time before things return to business as usual.
|Jarad Vod Savo||Golgari Lich Lord||Lich|
|Savra||Queen of the Golgari||Elf||Shaman|
Sites controlled by Golgari Swarm