Scales of War
Deity of Death, Fate and Doom
The Raven Queen, the Lady of the Smoke, the Masked Mistress, is the goddess of death, fate and doom and is the patroness of illusionists, liars, con men, and (secretly) politicians. Many casual worshipers pay her homage to ward her off or placate her before important decisions and judgments are made.
Her true appearance is not known, and she is never depicted in conservative religious art, though when her image is depicted it tends to be a dark-haired women concealed by a masquerade mask. Alternatively, swirling gray mists – sometimes in a vaguely humanoid form – are shown to represent her, and her altars frame no image above them.
The Raven Queen is an enigma since she covers and conceals everything she does and says with layers of illusion and falsehood. She is not an actively malicious power, however, and it is known that those few who manage to visit her realm in Limbo uninvited are normally trapped or restrained rather than simply being atomized, as is the practice of most evil or impatient powers.
The true appearance of the Raven Queen is unknown. Most senior clergy members and holy writings say she seldom looks the same way twice, but a recurring figure in accounts of her down the ages was that of a very tall, very thin woman with long smoke-hued hair and robes that exuded mists. Her eyes were said to be black, glistening, and very large – seeming to bore through any mortal and “see all” (or at least make mortals feel that she did). The Raven Queen was always a dangerous deity to cross, but her deceptions are essentially capricious, not works of malice or deliberate attempts to conceal evil. She likes to tantalize, appearing to mortals as beings who attract them, and because of this often appeared as a comely, beckoning female or heroic-looking, handsome male.
The church of The Raven Queen has clerics, specialty priests, and illusionists in its organization. Exact numbers of each kind of clergy and the total number of Ravens (as her clergy are called) are unknown because members of the faith cheerfully lie about its tenets, organization, numbers, and powers. Relations between the various members of the clergy are good, mainly because no one knows fully what is going on.
Raven Queen clergy members (of all kinds) are called whatever they choose to be called, and official titles vary from day to day and from person to person. Pompous titles are often followed by misleading ones, and this year’s high pontiff is the next year’s acolyte. This wild, constantly changing array of grandiose, silly, frivolous, and obviously spurious titles ranges from Supreme High Lord of the Heights and Depths to Most Holy Guttersweeper. Within the faith, specialty priests are known as Ravenlords to distinguish their capabilities from those of clerics and illusionists, but they sport the same diverse and ever-changing titles as others of their kind when asked publicly what their duties and positions are.
Compulsive liars and workers of illusions, both magical and otherwise, venerate the Lady, as do many wise thieves, but most other folk only make offerings to placate her. They otherwise mistrust her church entirely – a prudent judgment. The only time one can be sure that a priest of the Raven Queen is telling the truth is any words spoken between two utterances of the phrase “By the Smokeshadow,” although a sure sign that she trusts someone is that she employs huge, impossible lies without a shred of plausibility rather than the sinister misleading half-truths that the folk of the Faith That is Not What it Seems usually deal in.
Clergy of the Raven Queen spread false rumors, and if they can, create illusions, in return for fees. They are charged with the task of making folk everywhere doubt truth by encouraging (and then revealing) false beliefs, setting up hoaxes, and the like. The Ravens are masters of disguise and rent or sell costumes and (for stiff fees) apply makeup for everyone who desires it (usually folk in some trouble). They also aid others in deceptions by acting as actors-for-hire, often pretending to be wives, husbands, collection agents, brigands, paramours, escorts, thieves, or even clergy members of rival faiths as they assist some less-than-honest person in working a deceit on others. When not bent on such dark purposes, most Ravens work on alternative personas or roles they can adopt “out of mask” to work swindles on others, enriching and entertaining themselves (though it is a tenet of the church that someone they rob must later be aided by the Raven’s hands to make up for the loss).
The Raven Queen’s clergy members all dress alike: in long, cowled, bottom-fringed robes of russet to ochre, lined and streaked with green, tied with sashes of the same material, and worn with gloves and distinctive masquerade masks. These masks entirely cover the face, projecting out below the chin to allow normal breathing, and their wearers can see normally (if dimly) through them. A priest caught without a masquerade mask will wear a gauze headsack. Every robe has one sewn into the cowl and another in a concealed inner pocket to be sure that a supply is always near at hand. Although it is no sin to go barefaced, the Raven Queen’s clergy members are usually paranoid about showing their faces in public when their robes or residency make non-believers aware of their faith and profession: Many a priest of the Raven Queen has bathed or entertained private company while stubbornly still wearing (only) his or her mask!
Known temples of the Raven Queen are few and far between. Most are small, partially open structures of classical construction with large columns and porticos and a wide inner sanctum where services are held before low, flat, rectangular altars with masks, raven feathers, or other symbols decorating the area.
No images or statues of the Raven Queen grace the sanctuary anywhere. The Raven Queen’s temples are constantly filled with a light white mist that normally remains at ankle height but can rise to fill the room and thicken to obscure vision if the high priest or priestess of the temple desires.
The Raven Queen’s followers lie face-down on the ground and pray to the Lady every morning and on every moonlit night. They go walking whenever they encounter fogs, smoke, or mists to chant praises to the Raven Queen and speak with the Lady (who is said to sometimes answer as an echoing whisper out of the surrounding shroud). They also hold brief ceremonies at altars of the Raven Queen (when assigned to a temple) on a daily basis to allow non-believers who wish to appease the Raven Queen’s caprices to make offerings and to hear and guide the prayers of lay worshipers. In all cases, formal worship of the Raven Queen consists of kneeling prayers and standing hymns and chants made while facing her horned altars whose upswept arms frame only empty air.
The most holy rituals of the Raven Queen are the Unmasking, and the Invocation. The Unmasking is performed as purification by novices entering the priesthood, priests rising in rank, or priests doing penance for slighting their faith (telling the truth too often, for example). In this ritual, the bare-faced supplicant walks down ranks of priests holding tall lit candles between reflecting pools of water and mirrors. The Invocation is held when the Lady is called upon directly for guidance, and during this ceremony chanting priests swing censers to make thick smoke so that She may appear in the heart of its concealment and speak to them.
Myths and Legends
- The Original God of Death
Legends tell that the Raven Queen was once but the mortal consort of the original god of death, Nerull. She overthrew the tyrannical Nerull and claimed his portfolio by absorbing the powers of every tormented soul in his dominion, leading the other deities to revoke her power over deceased souls; hence, she can only claim dominion over death itself, and not over those who have died. The Raven Queen would later solidify her power base during the War of Winter, when she demanded the portfolio of winter in exchange for slaying the rebel goddess Khala. The Raven Queen thus joined the ranks of those gods who control the seasons, the others being Corellon (spring), Pelor (summer) and Sehanine (autumn). At some point, the Raven Queen assisted Corellon in his war against Lolth; as a reward, she demanded power over fate, which had previously been in Lolth’s portfolio.
The Raven Queen’s realm in the Shadowfell is known as Latherna. The influence of this frozen realm transcends the bounds of the plane and bleeds into the frosty reaches of the natural world’s distant north. Those who seek to commune with the Raven Queen must brave much to travel these harrowing lands. Letherna is dangerous, as much for its frigid elements as for the death-dealing monsters who stand guard over the Raven Queen’s demesne.
The Raven Queen expects her followers to abide by
- Hold no pity for those who suffer and die, for death is the natural end of life.
- Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate. As the instrument of the Raven Queen, you must punish hubris where you find it.
- Watch for the cults of Orcus and stamp them out whenever they arise. The Demon Prince of the Undead seeks to claim the Raven Queen’s throne.