The Dark Lady, The Queen of Assassins, Mistress of Murder, The Seductress
|Domain||Wealth, Power, Greed, Ambition|
|Ethos||Do as you will.|
|Typical Worshipers||Assassins, Warriors, Thieves, Guildsmen, Nobles|
|Head of the Church||The Sovereign Mother Amarouka|
|Demographics||52% Human, 13% Elven, 11% Sayune,8% Orc, 6% Ogre, 5% Grum, 5% Other|
|Geographic Regions||Primarily the Coalition, but scattered throughout the south coast.|
|Allied Faiths||On neutral terms with the other Dark Lords.|
|Opposed Faiths||All of the Elder Gods, Celestials and Kindred Gods.|
|Holy Symbol||A curved dagger with a drop of poison at its tip.|
Karenia is known as the Dark Lady and the Queen of Assassins. Wealth, power, greed and ambition are all important aspects of her nature. She is narcissistic, fickle and unpredictable. Her only concerns are her own personal pleasures and the power she wields to obtain it. She cares nothing for law, morality or the welfare of others. To her, life is a game and she breaks all the rules to get what she wants.
Her methods are as much a part of her as her goals. Lies, seduction, treachery, poison and murder are the tools of her trade. She uses lies and emotion to manipulate others. She is a sophisticated killer with a refined and cultured nature… a seductress who kills without remorse to achieve her ends. She never allows emotion or pity to impede her.
Karenia is always depicted as a beautiful human female. She has pale skin, long wavy black hair and talon-like fingernails. She is typically shown dressed in elaborate gowns of purple and black. She wears jewelry of silver, onyx and amethyst.
Karenia is associated with the number thirteen, the color purple and the second moon, Thrykar.
Myths and Legends
According to the holy writings of this faith, Karenia was once the Queen of the Gods, ruling over all others. It was a time of perfect harmony and the world was at peace. However, the other gods became jealous of her beauty, power and perfection. Together they overthrew her and cast her down, exiling her into the dark void beyond the stars. With her departure, the world was plunged into chaos and terror. The world shook, the stars fell, the land cracked open, the seas flooded the world and the star itself split. The other gods fought amongst each other vying for control. After thirteen days and thirteen nights, Karenia returned from the void. Using her might, she slowly brought the world back under her control.
Knowing full well the jealousy of the other gods, she now works discreetly, from the shadows. She erected a great crystalline tower on the second moon and hid it from the eyes of the other gods with her powerful magic. From this secret place, she plots her return to power. She watches over the world from a realm of eternal starry beauty. For centuries, she has passed on her knowledge to those she deemed worthy. The faithful can contact her through ritualistic magic. She also influences mortals through dreams and visions. Through such means, she has passed on her knowledge and formed the Church.
The Dark Lady has far reaching plans to slowly advance her power and usurp the power of the other gods, one by one. She is patient and methodical. Her time will come. She will one day take back her throne and her rightful place as Queen of the Gods.
Overview of the Church
The church of Karenia is one of the seven major groups that form the bulk of the governing body of the Coalition. As such, this church controls a great deal of wealth and wields enormous political clout in the southlands. While exact numbers of worshipers of any of the Dark Lords is not known, it is widely suspected that the church of Karenia is the largest, surpassing even Belhelizar in number of worshipers. This church is also the most public, operating openly in the Coalition.
The church of Karenia is a large and complex organization that is intertwined with every level of Coalition society. Its influence stretches from the glittering halls of the Council of Seven to the mud choked back alleys of Tyrrenkor. It is more than just a religious organization. The church rules over several smaller groups. One of these groups is a thieves guild called the Fellowship. Through the Fellowship, the church rules over a vast criminal empire with tendrils infiltrating towns and cities throughout the southlands.
While this faith accepts both men and women into its ranks, it has, for most of its history, had a matriarchal nature which persists to this day. Only women hold high rank in the clergy and the supreme authority of this church, the Sovereign Mother, is always a woman.
Karenia is worshiped openly in the Coalition. The church of Karenia is a major part of the Coalition government. It's main temple is located in Tyrrenkor and other churches and temples to Karenia can be found in cities and towns throughout the Coalition. The church of Karenia is worshiped by many others throughout the southlands, although many choose to worship discreetly with hidden, personal shrines. It is widely suspected that the church also has spies and agents in strategic positions in guilds and noble houses throughout the lands. A major temple to Karenia can be found in the city of Asylum.
History and Origins
Historical records are incomplete, but thanks to the work of Orin Salgara, a historian at the Rukemian Imperial Archive, the following is considered to be fairly accurate.
Scholars can trace the origin of this faith to a specialized Traxxian military order that formed in the early years of the Traxx Legion. Known as the Slayers, this small group consisted of the most elite Traxxian spies and assassins, many of which were female agents, skilled at seduction and infiltration. The first historical record of this group suggests it formed circa 300 TIC. Its members carried out dozens of dangerous missions, including assassinations, for centuries.
The group shrouded themselves in myth and mystery. Little was known of their numbers, methods, leaders or the location of their stronghold. When the Great War engulfed the realms, the Slayers plunged themselves into deeper seclusion and secrecy. A number of daring thefts, ambushes and assassinations were carried out of those violent years, many of which were attributed to this group.
Years after the Thullian Empire surrendered and the Great War ended, the Slayers aided the Traxx Legion in its struggles against the Irenni League and other political powers of the time.
During these civil conflicts, the greatest of the Slayers was a female assassin named Karenia. Stories of her stealth and speed attained near mythical status. Among the slayers, there were many stories of her exploits. However, her blaze of glory was short lived. She was on a covert mission in the Citadel when it fell to the ogres in 658 CY. She was not heard from again and was presumed dead.
With the start of the eighth century on the common calendar, the Traxx Legion began to suffer internal conflicts as several of its leaders battled each other. It has been suggested that the Slayers may have contributed to this, playing one warlord against another. This eventually led to the Traxxian civil war and eventual collapse of the Legion in 771 CY.
Amidst the Legion’s collapse, the Slayers were forced to relocate to a small stronghold just outside of the town of Tyrrenkor. This imposing citadel overlooked the town from a nearby hilltop. During this time, the Slayers were led by a woman named Beldana. Beldana inspired her group with tales of Karenia. As the years passed, these tales became more elaborate and began to imply that Karenia lived. In these tales, Karenia was always in the shadows, striking down their enemies and working for the benefit of the Slayers. Tale built upon tale and began to form a complex mythology.
Under her guidance, the group expanded its numbers. During these years, the Slayers came into conflict with several other rival groups that had arisen from the ashes of the Traxx Legion. Beldana died in 822 CY, but by the time of her death, the Slayers had evolved a complex mythology, rituals and ceremony. The group no longer hid behind a veil of secrecy. However, stories about the “followers of Karenia” consorting with demons made the common folk fearful and few dared venture near the citadel. The Slayers made no effort to correct these superstitions.
From 822 CY and onward, Beldana’s successors continued the mythology that Beldana had begun. The group slowly took on the aspects of a religious sisterhood. By 885 CY, the group was now referring to itself as the Church of Karenia. They were led by an elderly woman who called herself simply the Matron.
Conflict and war with other groups in the region continued. Many of the smaller groups had either been wiped out or merged together. After years of conflict, there were eight groups remaining, each vying for control of the peninsula. The most problematic rival for the Church of Karenia was called the Fellowship. It was a group of bandits and marauders that had originally formed from the remnants of a Traxxian military group. The Fellowship controlled smuggling, a profitable slave trade and oversaw a loosely organized network of crime. It was also known for its own assassins.
In 960 CY, a new matron, by the name of Sarkahna, rose to power. She was skilled in sorcery, alchemy, divination and other dark arts. She taught these gifts to the faithful. Sarkahna was a powerful and charismatic figure. She held many ritualistic gatherings with her followers. In these gatherings, Sarkahna contacted Karenia herself through magic. Karenia spoke to the assembled group through Sarkahna. Over the course of many years, Karenia passed down many revelations through Sarkahna. Rank, ritual and protocol were given to the church and thus Sarkahna declared herself the first “Sovereign Mother”. As these holy revelations were recorded, their holy book came into being. Sarkahna had a profound influence on the development of this church. She died in 1004 CY, but her successors continued the practices of sorcery, divination and extraplanar contact with Karenia.
In 1052 CY, the Church of Karenia managed to infiltrate the stronghold of the Fellowship and poison a great feast, thus killing most the Fellowship’s commanders. With monetary rewards, negotiation and the subtle intimidation of her magic, the Sovereign Mother Ashunta managed to coerce the remaining lieutenants of the Fellowship into an alliance. This was an alliance in name only. It is more correct to say that the Church of Karenia absorbed the Fellowship into its ranks as servants, slaves and common foot soldiers. With the addition of more than a thousand bandits and warrior thugs, the Church of Karenia was now a serious force to be reckoned with. After the addition of the Fellowship to its ranks, the Sovereign Mother decided that it was time for the Church to begin accepting men into its ranks.
With the fall of the Fellowship, only seven groups remained. These seven groups maintained an uneasy peace of strained relations. Tepid alliances were formed and broken between various groups. Finally, in 1066 CY, the Church of Karenia was invited to meet with the others. A council was held. Over thirteen days, a pact was written and eventually signed by all parties. It ended all hostilities between the seven groups and united them under a common banner. Thus was born the Coalition and the Church of Karenia was an equal member.
With the Fellowship under its control, the Church of Karenia controlled a vast crime cartel. This began several centuries wherein the Church of Karenia continued to grow and amass power.
In 1447 CY, the Sovereign Mother Arshai declared that Karenia had ordered a great temple be built to her. So, starting that summer, the hilltop citadel that overlooked the city of Tyrrenkor underwent a significant architectural expansion. The work took more than 70 years. Finally completed in 1518 CY, the building had more than quadrupled in size and it now functioned as temple, guild hall and stronghold. It was named Undrilar, a Traxxian word which translates as “first home”.
By 1850 CY, the city of Tyrrenkor had expanded so much that it had grown up to and around the temple of Karenia. The temple was now “inside” the city.
While the church is quite secretive in its machinations and plots, it is reasonable to assume that one of the Church’s long term goals is to overtake the other six groups and assume full control of the Coalition. If this were to happen, the Coalition might become the first true theocracy of Ithria.
Temples, Churches and Holy Sites
The main temple of this faith is Undrilar in Tyrrenkor. This building is truly colossal in size, though less opulent and decorative than one might expect of a faith. This edifice is built of sandstone and darkwood, as are most of the buildings in Tyrrenkor. It is home to the Sovereign Mother, the Dark Lady, most of the Serpentines, the Council of Harridans and several hundred guards and servants. It is temple, fortress, guild hall, training center, school and government building, all in one. Within these halls, there are training grounds, prayer shrines, conference rooms and catacombs. It is also home to many hundreds of slaves and indentured servants.
A typical temple in a city or large town is ruled by a Harridan, will have two or three serpentines, a dozen or more slayers, a dozen anointed and several score of allegiants and other servants.
Worshipers of Karenia come from many walks of life. Among the ranks of her faithful can be found the corrupt judge, the scheming businessman, the ambitious soldier, the haughty prince, the humble beggar and a miscellany of thieves, pirates, thugs, gamblers, whores, assassins and worse. The teachings of this faith appeal to something base and powerful in all of humanity.
Many pray to the Dark Lady for luck, wealth, revenge and whatever else they desire. They seek divine favor from Karenia, pray for a sick loved one to be cured, ask for wealth and prosperity, or simply seek answers to their questions. Most who worship the Dark Lady care only for themselves and their own advancement. Quite a few of them make a living from death – bounty hunters, assassins, mercenaries and so forth. Those who worship Karenia often do so openly. Hers is a powerful church and there are many faithful who will not hide in the shadows. They boldly proclaim their faith. This contrasts greatly with the worshipers of Barulda and Agethos who are often forced to conceal their loyalties.
Although they may not worship Karenia, slaves and indentured servants form the lowest tier of this faith's social spectrum. These individuals perform the most backbreaking labor and the dirtiest jobs. In this faith, inferiors are treated with disdain and contempt. Slaves are truly treated as property. Slaves are worked until they die and then are replaced.
Allied and Opposed Faiths
The church of Karenia is opposed to all of the Elder Gods and the Celestials. It is on neutral terms with most of the other Dark Lords.
Karenia urges her followers to revel in their desires and take what they want. Be it a lover, a treasure, lands, titles, jewels or even simply a fine meal or an exquisite bottle of wine. Whatever you desire, take it. There are no sins in this faith. The highest law is “do as you will”.
The holy book of the church is known as the Torceril (a fusion of two Traxxi words that roughly translates as “path to perfection”). This book is more commonly called the “Manual of the Infinite Self”. It was compiled by the revelations and epiphanies first brought about by séance rituals of Sarkahna. It has been added to by later Sovereign Mothers.
The Torceril consists of five books which cover the following topics: the mythology of Karenia, the philosophies of the faith, a manual of alchemy, a grimoire of spells and a book of rules and protocol.
The symbol is a wavy dagger. Within the mythology of the faith, Karenia herself is said to carry such a weapon. Historians have some evidence that the actual Karenia may have carried such a weapon and that its description has been passed down through the ages and been woven into the mythology. Every person of rank, the Anointed, the Serpentines and the Harridans, carries a wavy bladed dagger. This weapon functions as their holy symbol. It is used as a component in the casting of many of their spells.
The Communing - At the main temple of Undrilar, the Gathering is performed every thirteen days when the second moon, Thrykar, is full in the sky. During these gatherings, the Sovereign Mother makes direct extraplanar contact with Karenia.
Day of Revelations - Also known informally as Sarkahna's Day. This is an annual gathering held on Windrise 21. It is the anniversary of the first successful contact by Sarkahna in 961 CY and celebrates the first revelations from Karenia. In this celebration, the faithful feast, drink wine laced with poison and engage in personal combat. Many duels are fought at these events as a way of testing one's self, resolving disputes and garnering favor for promotion.
The Harkon is the name of Karenia's blade. This is the original wavy bladed dagger that features prominently in several Karenian myths. There are those of the faith that believe the Harkon is destined to be found again and they search for it.
The Fellowship is a special division of the church, although it functions some what separate and apart from the church. The Fellowship is a criminal organization. It is a host of thieves, bandits, thugs, warriors, pirates, smugglers and fences that form a loose guild of criminal activity. This group serves the church of Karenia on the street, in the sewer, in the back alley. They do the smuggling, the thievery and the dirty work. While a serpentine of the church might be called upon for an assassination, it is the Fellowship that might be ordered to send thugs out to wipe out a rival gang or to search the streets for a missing person. Many of the criminal activities of the Fellowship provide a continual stream of funds into the church's coffers.
The current leader of the Fellowship is a harothi saurian named Krag who has a penchant for killing. He dislikes taking orders from the church, but he knows that the priestesses have powerful spells and an annoying ability to sniff out the slightest whiff of treachery, so he keeps his feelings in check. Occasionally, a clergy member of the church will fail in some manner and may be exiled to the Fellowship. The Fellowship also recruits new members off the street. This group enjoys a certain amount of autonomy.
Overview of the Clergy
Most choose to simply worship Karenia, but a few seek to truly serve the church. Personal ambition and advancement is an important aspect of the faith and this is reflected in the many levels of the clergy and the strict, formal delineation of rank. Advancement and promotion occur with a great deal of ritual.
An interesting result of this faith's emphasis on "personal advancement" is that even slaves and servants have been known to advance and join the clergy. Sometimes this involves an indentured servant working hard for years and fulfilling his alloted servitude and then becoming an allegiant. This is allowed and encouraged. Perhaps surprisingly, there have been incidents where a slave has killed an allegiant and been invited to take his place. In this faith, the strong advance and the weak die. This truth extends from the Obsidian Throne all the way down to the slave pens.
Those followers of Karenia who choose to join the clergy and serve the church begin their career as allegiants.The allegiants are the first and lowest rank of the church. These men and women serve at temples and churches performing a number of menial tasks: cooking, cleaning, common labor, tend to the animals, repair the temple and running errands for their superiors. Allegiants spend a great deal of time studying the Torceril, in classes led by annointed, in prayer groups and in personal meditation. After much study, allegiants are granted some minor spell ability. The ability to purge poisons from their body is the first spell they learn. They often learn another spell or two. Every church has a few allegiants serving it. The temple of Undrilar has more than a hundred. After several years of faithful service, an allegiant may seek admission into one of the higher ranks of the church - either the anointed or the slayers, depending upon their particular talents.
The Slayers are the militant arm of the church. They serve as guards and soldiers for the church. Both men and women may serve as Slayers, although more than half are male. Those allegiants who show more skill with a sword than a spell are invited to join the slayers. Slayers train endlessly and quickly become expert with many weapons and armor. The favored weapon of the slayers is slender blade with a slight curve toward the tip. Slayers fight with buckler shields and heavy metal studded cloaks. Slayers serve at every temple. Most temples have several dozen. The temple of Undrilar has four hundred.
The annointed are the main body of priests in the church. These men and women are called "the anointed" because of the method of their advancement. When an allegiant is ready to advance in rank, he or she undergoes the "annointing". In this ceremony, they are bound and a poisonous oil is smeared upon their forehead. They are then sealed in a burial vault. They spend the night suffering the effects of the poison. They are to use prayer and magic to “heal” themselves. About one in four dies from the poison and their body is simply left in the vault. Those who survive the poison undergo a physical and mental transmutation. They find their magical ability increased. When they emerge from the vault, they are one of the anointed. The poison leaves a burn scar upon their forehead. This scar is bright red when it is new, but gradually fades with time. After a few years, it has almost completely faded. Anointed are immuned to many minor poisons.
The anointed perform most of the common duties of the church. They teach and instruct the allegiants, carry out the wishes of their superiors and preach to the faithful. The anointed have several spells at their command. They also study alchemy and poisons. Often the anointed are sent out into the world on missions for the church.
There are thirteen distinct levels within the anointed rank. After years of faithful service, a female anointed may be chosen for promotion to the Serpentines. Men may serve no higher than an anointed.
Those anointed who show intelligence, cunning, battle skill and magical talent may be invited to join the ranks of the serpentines. The serpentines are highly trained spies and assassins who use a combination of steel, spell, stealth and alchemy. All serpentines are female. Although beauty is not a requisite trait, most members are physically attractive and all have very good social skills. Poison is the preferred method and many slayers have specialize in manufacturing herbal poisons. In addition, they themselves are immuned to most poisons. The Serpentines are few in number. Currently, there are only forty seven. Most live at the temple of Undrilar in Tyrrenkor. However, a few live at other major churches and they often travel between churches as necessary. The serpentines carry out the most delicate and dangerous assignments. Sometimes this may involve a risky theft or an precise assassination. Often, they serve as spies in foreign groups or governments, reporting back to the Council of Harridans.
The serpentines are led by their most senior leader, a human woman named Ynar. In many ways, Ynar also functions as the right hand of the Sovereign Mother, carrying out special missions for her. Ynar is master swordswoman. She is also an expert at poisons, stealth, infiltration and disguise. She has taught most of the serpentine’s personally.
The Harridans are the elder matriachs of the church. There are always exactly thirteen and these thirteen old women form the Council of Harridans. This council rules the church but is in turn ruled by the Sovereign Mother. All harridans are retired serpentines. Membership to this is by invitation only. When a harridan dies, she must be replaced within thirteen nights. The competitions and trials surrounding the choosing of a new harridan are fierce. Despite the fact that they are older women, the harridans are not to be trifle with. The fact that most of them have survived decades as a covert spy speaks volumes about their abilities. The harridans wield powerful magic. Enchantment, evocation, divination, biomancy, alchemy and necromancy are all within their repetoire. They are expert brewers of potions and poisons. All of them are skilled with a blade.
Outside of Undrilar, the highest ranking priestess at each individual church also bears the title of Harridan. Although they have the same rank, temple Harridans are not members of the Council.
The Sovereign Mother
The Sovereign Mother is the supreme authority of the church of Karenia. Her word is absolute. She rules from throne carved from a single block of obsidian. It is said that the obsidian throne is ensorcelled such that anyone who sits upon it can "see and hear across the world". It likely has other magical functions as well. The Sovereign Mother is attended to by dozens of servants and bodyguards, who are all female. She rules until she dies or chooses to step down. In that case, a new Sovereign Mother is chosen from the ranks of the Harridans in an elaborate ritual of spell dueling which often lasts a full day. This trial by magical combat ensures that only the strongest and most powerful Harridan rises to claim the Obsidian Throne.
The current Sovereign Mother is an elderly human woman named Amarouka. She is ancient and wise and known for a conservative nature. She is short of statue and dresses humbly, but she is known as a fierce debater, a formidable intelligence and a powerful worker of spells.
This website was last updated October 5, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.