Daena, Escort of the Dead

The Goddess

Daena, Escort of the Dead, is one of the most mysterious of the gods. The Baklunes believe that the stars in the night sky are the passing souls of the dead, being taken to whatever afterlife awaited them. Thus, Daena is also considered a sky goddess.

It seems likely that she is related to the Twins, possibly even that she is their mother. Some even say that she was the first goddess, and that most of the pantheon descended from her, though her clerics have never commented on this. Whatever the truth, she is known to be a stunning beauty. She does not have the allure of Askerali, because Daena is not an emotional goddess. In fact, those who have seen her describe a slight chilliness of temperament, as if she had passed beyond the boundaries of emotion long ago, and is now simply…calm. Calm and cool as the night sky. This is not to say that she has no compassion. Indeed, she seems to care deeply for every one of her charges, and will go to great lengths to make certain they arrive safely at their destination. There is more than one story of Daena taking on a quest to bring back a lost or wounded soul.

She is supposed to have long, glistening raven hair that cascades down her back until it falls to her knees. Her skin is pale as desert sand in the moonlight, and her full mouth always carries just a hint of smile, never more nor less. It is as is she is laughing quietly at the whole world. Her clothes change, but usually come in either pale or dark tones, unlike the wildly colorful wardrobe most Baklunes (and their deities) are known for. Often, she appears clad in the simple, loose robes of a desert traveler. However, Daena’s most striking features are her eyes. They say that if you look into her eyes, you see the entire night sky reflected in them, revealed in its true nature. It is a sight so incredible that no one seems able to describe it. However, everyone who looks upon this wonder inevitably dies soon after, as their soul steals away from the body during the night to join Daena on her journeys. Daena’s clerics say that people who die in this way never pass on to the afterlife, but become assistant shepherds to lost souls, never wanting to leave their beloved goddess’ side. Still, there are some who quest specifically for this privilege, preferring to see a thing of such beauty that it kills them.

The Faith

Daena’s faith is a faith of mystery. She holds secrets in her eyes and smile that even Istus does not know. Long ago, Daena spoke to the Baklunish, telling them that the barrier between life and death exists for a reason. Beyond it lie truths that mortals are not meant to know. For this reason, astrology is an art forbidden to Baklunes. Only Daena’s clergy (and Istus’ priests, to whom no form of divination is barred—though they prefer the cards at any rate) may practice it. Divination is not innately harmful, but to study the heavens too intently is to open oneself to these secrets. Similarly, star magics and soul magics were forbidden, for the first is dangerous, and the second is evil. These are truths that proved all too true when the Baklunish and Suel empires began to clash, because Suel magics were based on such powers.

The night sky, the road of souls, is Daena’s realm. She is known as the Escort of the Dead, and this is true. Upon a person’s passing, it is she who comes to retrieve the spirit and help it along to its proper place. However, during this journey, the soul passes through Daena’s realm. In this place, the soul’s eventual destination does not matter. Until it reaches its destination, all souls are treated the same, and all souls are under her dominion. Popular belief has it that a soul takes three nights to pass across the sky to its resting place. In this time, legends say that a soul could be retrieved without the magic of priests, if a living person were willing to risk the journey themselves. Daena will never harm anyone passing through her realm, unless they mean harm to a soul in her charge, but anyone traveling to her realm risks the chance of seeing whatever wonder lies within her eyes, and whatever secrets she keeps in her realm that man is not meant to know. Most of those who have tried such a quest have never come back, abandoning the living world themselves in order to stay with her.

One of the strangest mysteries about Daena is her connection to Tovag Barragu. That is, no one is certain whether she has a connection to it. Of course, the place is sacred to all Baklunes, and also somewhat taboo. It holds an aura of mystery similar to hers, and is said to be controlled (or at least influenced) by the flux of the stars. Is this one of the secrets Daena and her priests keep? Or is the power of Tovag Barragu a separate thing? All Baklunes guard Tovag Barragu, and all Baklunish priests guard the knowledge of it. No mortal knows whether the secrets of Tovag Barragu rest in Daena’s control, or whether she simply protects it as do all the others.

The Priesthood

Priests of Daena perform rites for the dying, as well as protect the bodies of the newly dead and the resting places of the dead. Her church hunts undead aggressively, since they see undead as being souls who were stolen from her care (except in special cases such as liches, where there’s far more wrong than that). They are always willing to give aid to the churches of Istus and the Twins (who have one Church, though each priest chooses a primary goddess). Followers of Janskyd can request assistance from any priest of Daena and expect to receive it, for Janskyd watches over her souls on the single night of the year that the Twins cannot.

Daena’s faithful (mostly priests, for few worship her except at appropriate times) are tasked with guarding her secrets and policing the Baklunes to make certain no one else attempts to delve into them. Her church is a touch suspicious of Zurren, the god of knowledge, and of Kamrusepas, god of magic, because they believe these two churches may have done just that. This is a slightly sore point among these three, since Zurren and Kamrusepas both believe that their followers should not be barred from things which fall within their purview. If they have studied such knowledge, however, the clergy of these two faiths have been exceedingly discreet, for no evidence has ever been found. Daena’s church can grudgingly accept this compromise. As for the church’s relations with gods outside the Baklunish pantheon…Daena’s faithful have no right to tell other cultures what to do when their gods allow such things, but Daena’s clerics often become markedly grumpy around certain heathen faiths. It is the somewhat angry opinion of Daena’s church that if other pantheons want their people to suffer such consequences, then that’s up to them, but the Baklunes aren’t going through that again.