Section I: Gods and Goddesses
Section III: Myths and Religions of other Peoples
“Every year, the people of Lyssaion greeted the spring with an athletic competition in which their best men and women participated, all to gain the victor’s olive branch and the affection of their city’s founding goddess, the resplendent Alyssa. Contests of archery, of wrestling, of strength, of beauty, of throwing spears and discs, of running, of leaping wide and leaping high; those were the disciplines in which the athletes competed, cheered on by the people who rejoiced in the festival. Vendors sold food, others offered baubles or clothes or refreshments of the most varied of sorts.
“And above all, the priests of Alyssa watched, the Lady’s eyes and ears, to judge who most deserved the olive branch in each discipline, who most deserved to shine in the Lady’s glorious attention.
“One year there was an athlete named Mychalli, a powerfully built man from the village of Danzaton. When he took off his clothes, as was traditional, a gasp went through the audience; the sighs of women, the envious gulps of men, all staring at the bronze tanned muscles on a perfect body. He blushed as he became aware of the attention, a disarming smile on his lips that disconcerted the men and made the women swoon.
“He ran the dash of a hundred yards and crossed the line two feet before the next competitor.
“He took part in leaping wide. Though bested by two other athletes, none in the audience could remember the winner but all recalled the grace of Mychalli’s flight, his tanned, sweaty skin glistening in the sun, and the happy grin on his face when he saw the distance he had achieved.
“And finally, the sun setting low and its rosy light cast over the grass, he stepped into the ring of throwing, a disc of stone in his hand. It rested easily in his hand, as easily as the lighter discs of metal in the other athletes hands. Not one voice dared complain about his stone disc, not one dared ridicule him.
“He began to turn, the smile on his face replaced by concentration. The audience fell silent, agape at the display of muscles perfectly coordinated. At the right moment he released the disc. It spun through the air as if carried by heavenly spirits, further and further, beyond all lines of measurement and crashed into a wall. A cheer ran through the audience, as all saw that the winner had been decided before the contest had fully begun. Not one of the other athletes came close to Mychalli’s achievement, despite trying at their hardest. Many tried again and again, only to fall over from exertion.
“In the end, it was Mychalli who received the olive branch. He smiled at the priestess, and she who had seen so much of masculinity could not help but blush. Mychalli turned to the crowd, raised the branch and spoke a prayer of thanks to Alyssa, she who had given him her love and the strength to win on that day.
“All was fine, and Mychalli was made guest of honor at the banquet of Lyssaion’s finest and noblest. He ate well and drank with pleasure of wine better than he had ever before tasted. After a while, a maiden stepped forward and asked him to dance with her. She was a splendid girl, with locks of gold and a smile of promise. Mychalli felt heady from the wine and the glory of winning, thus he agreed to join her in one dance.
“They were the finest couple among the dancers, and soon the only ones dancing as all in attendance stared in marvel. Their moves were perfect and vivacious, each swing of her hips temptation, each step of his legs a tiger’s proud stomp. When finally the music stopped, Mychalli wanted to return to the table, yet the maid insisted on one more dance. ‘I am Slasya, and I will not be denied,’ she said.
“Mychalli agreed, but soon found himself doubting his decision, as the maid’s dance became ever more lively, ever more tempting. The music stopped, and again he excused himself, and again the maid insisted on continuing the dance. ‘I am Slasya, and you will be mine.’
“’Dear maiden,’ Mychalli said, smiling gently, ‘I am already beholden to a woman. Her vows are sacred to me and shall not be broken.’
“Fire raged in the maiden’s eyes as she cried, ‘Do you mean to deny Slasya? Do you mean to reject Slasya?’
“The athlete’s smile deepened and saddened. ‘Yes, I do. I am hers and shall never belong to anyone else.’
“’Then thou wilst pay thine price for rejecting Slasya,’ the maiden said dangerously and exited.
“Mychalli felt no more joy at the banquet. Despite the pleas by lords and ladies, he decided to leave, and so he gathered his belongings in his bundle and wandered back to his home of Danzaton. His wife Judyleyt received him with happiness and cried at the sight of the olive branch. Seeing his wife, Mychalli forgot all about the strange maiden at the banquet; here in her arms it was that he felt truly glad.
“Yet the following day, after he went to his work on the fields, a man knocked at the door of his home. Judyleyt opened and saw a man with locks of gold and a smile of promise. ‘I am Lyawell, and I will not be denied,’ the man said.
“Judyleyt could not speak, her throat was dry, as the man took her in his arms, holding her tight. ‘I am Lyawell, and you will be mine.’
“She could not fight the urges, could not fight his hands as he unclasped her robe. ‘I am Lyawell,’ he said, ‘and you are mine.’
“’Yes, I am,’ she whispered, overcome by sensations beyond her experience.
“When Mychalli came home from his work, there was no cry of welcome, no smell of warm, fresh food. Emptiness greeted him. Uncomprehending he stood at the door, calling for Judyleyt. He heard no answer, so he walked out to search for her. All night he ran through the village, through the forest, over the fields, calling her name, to no avail.
“Finally he collapsed and fell asleep. When he woke up, it was dark, but he took up his search once more. Another night he ran, another day and another night before fatigue claimed him once more. Sunlight kissing him awake, he sat up in a place he had never seen before and cried. Tears rolled over his face, never ending, never ceding.
“’Why are you crying?’ a woman’s voice asked.
“Mychalli looked up to see the strange maid from the banquet. Yet he now saw that he had been mistaken and she was no maid. Dressed in fisher’s clothes, he could tell she had seen more years than he had thought before, that she was a fully grown woman indeed.
“’My wife…’ he sobbed and then cried out her name again, in pain and despair.
“’Think not of her,’ the fisher woman said, ‘when there is Slasya nearby.’
“Yet Mychalli did not understand, nor did he wish to. More tears rolled down his cheeks, more cries of pain did he raise to the heavens, while the fisher woman stood by, watching him patiently. ‘You kept her vows sacred,’ she said after a while. ‘Did she keep your vows sacred?’
“He looked at her questioningly. ‘What do you mean?’
“She answered, ‘You are beholden to her. But is she beholden to you?’ As he said nothing, she moved closer and said, ‘I am Slasya, and I will not be denied.’
“He could not fight the urges, could not fight her arms that snaked around him and led his fingers to unclasp her robe. ‘I am Slasya, and you will be mine.’
“Mychalli was unable to resist. Finally he lay back as the fisher woman rose to put her clothes on. ‘I am Slasya, and you are mine,’ she said, ‘to be destroyed.’
“Suddenly the fisher woman was no more, and in her stead a woman of divine beauty stood, with auburn hair and burning hazel eyes, surrounded by a glow of gold. ‘For I am Alyssa, and I am the Lady of Love, and thou hast rejected me. Thou hast paid a tithe, yet thou wilst pay in full for thine crime.’
“Another change came over her, and in her place stood a man with locks of gold. ‘For now Lyawell will return to thine wife, and he will implant thine seed in her. Yet the seed is corrupted by thine rejection. Thine wife will become pregnant, yet her offspring will destroy her. This is thine price, Mychalli, who thou hast angered the Lady.’
“The glow swelled to a blinding light, and when it was gone, so was Lyawell. Mychalli stared at the emptiness left by the goddess. He knew that she had said the truth. He knew that Judyleyt would die, and that never again would he feel the joy of holding her in his arms. He knew that she would die giving birth to a child of his, yet a child cursed by the goddess.
“He knew that it was just for it was the will of the goddess.
“And as tears welled up again in his eyes, he cursed the goddess and all that was divine, all that had taken his life from him.”
Red Book of Caernavel”,
Lady of Highest Esteem,
prayer of gratitude,
hast chosen my daughter as your servant.
was the brightest flower,
had the smile of cheer,
had the calling to help,
Thou hast granted her to give with Thine blessing.
past the temple,
the smiles of cheer on people’s faces,
them praise Thine name,
that Thou hast given my daughter’s life meaning.”
“It is the Lady’s prime order that no novice be accepted under eighteen years of age. This order is not to be broken on pain of expulsion from the order and permanent erasure of the ability to love.”
“The Lady’s Breviary, All Editions”, Section on Holy Orders
“It is comforting to look back at the long life I have had, a life of pleasure and joy. From my earliest days as a novice, I kept a list of the people who had asked for my services, a list of their problems and worries, and a list of whether these could be solved. All these lists today cover two bookshelves in my private room in the temple.
“Some names appear only once, wanderers with little need of the Lady’s services. Some who did not find any solace in my words or my arms and went away with all the burden still on their shoulders.
“A gloriously long list of names there is of those who came back time and again, to cherish the lady and share with me what irked them – trusting that I would know how to move on. So many names, so many faces that I do recall! Some resting in my arms, smiling exhaustedly but knowingly; some sitting in my favorite reading chair, looking meekly over to me, but also smiling because they had learned how to go on.
“A very few, I am glad to say, of those who returned have never found the right path to remove the worries from their lives. These names burn on my soul, since it was my lack of ability that did not give them the right words, the right incentives. Those who committed the ultimate deed, who soiled their bodies and souls by suicide – it never was their fault. Every single one of them was a good person in her or his heart; every one could have gone on to lead a good life, to find happiness after all. More than what little happiness a simple priest like me could give them; a priest who has more than one lamb in his flock.
“No, it was never their fault. It was mine.
“And that pierces all the comfort I feel otherwise. There is the terrible question whether my words hurt them rather than soothe their woes? Was it I who drove them over the edge? And those who simply continued, every day driving themselves deeper into their depressing worries, were they any better off? Was it not here as well that I failed?
“I still remember the first day I thought about becoming a priest of Alyssa. Of course, the occasion was rather less celebratory than one would imagine. And the reasons I had were certainly none that would ever get a novice accepted. I was dreaming about the beautiful priestesses I had seen in the temple – from well afar, naturally, since I was a mere twelve years of age -, and equally about how good it must be to be a priest and to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh every day.
“Selfish thoughts were all that I had, and these are none that a good priest may have. Which is why I cherish the prime order, that nobody younger than eighteen years may enter the priesthood. As a matter of fact I doubt that age barrier is high enough.
“It took me until my third decade to truly understand the meaning of the priests of Alyssa. I had wasted much of my youth as a warrior, taking pleasure in murderous killing and, yes, rape as well. Perhaps it was a brutish way of living out some of the dreams my younger self had had.
“There were many women I lusted after, and some that I even loved. Few people meant much to me in those years of mindlessness. In my twenty-eighth year on Gushémal, though, this changed when I met a woman who made me truly care for another human being. She raised me up, with so little effort, made me feel as if I were important rather than just a simple soldier of the Ibrollenian army.
“We were married, and it was a blessed union. At first, it was. Slowly the novelty wore off, routine set in, and we began to grow tired of each other. Such a terrible experience it was, seeing an apparently perfect love deteriorate and decay like that.
“After six months, our house was suddenly empty. She had left, with all her belongings – and a good deal of mine as well. I had expected much, but never this. The sight of my empty home struck me down, and I spent an hour just sitting quietly in a corner, wishing to take out my sword and smashing anything in sight. Yet there was no strength left in me.
“When I recovered my senses a little – only a little -, I headed into town to the nearest temple of Alyssa, asked the first priestess for her services and just spent myself, without ever talking much. I didn’t even leave the customary donation when I left, just went to a bar and got myself completely drunk.
“The next day I didn’t show up for duty. The patrolmen found me in the temple, bragging about what a great warrior I was. They dragged me to the fortress, slapped me in chains for a week, and when I got out again, I was off to the temple again.
“This went on for two months, my stays in gaol getting ever longer, and my stays in the temple less and less satisfactory, for still I never spoke a word of truth about my worries. The attentions of the priestesses, as wonderfully varied as they were, as hard as they sought to uncover my woes, were growing continuously less enjoyable.
“Finally I was booted out of the service dishonorably, with fifty lashes to my back. I was still bleeding when I crawled back into the temple. Two priests carried me to a bed, left, and a single priestess entered to begin healing my back. She did not say a single word, not when she healed me and nearly fainted at the strain, not when I felt my strength return and took her, senselessly venting my rage.
“When I was spent, I lay next to her, staring at the roof for a moment, then I glanced over and for the first time I recognized the priestess. It was the woman that had serviced me the day my wife had left me. A strange feeling came over me, the realization that she had seen my pain and felt responsible for me. Enough so that she chose to return to my side now. Enough so that she suffered all my roughness.
“I kept watch over her all night. It took until the mid-morning before she woke up, apparently surprised that I was still there. ‘Forgive me,’ I said softly, looking into her dark, sensual eyes. ‘I was cruel to you.’
“’Yes, you were,” she answered, a tender smile playing along her lips, ‘but you have reason for it, Paype Luhpyu, formerly grade underofficer of Ibrollene. Or what you perceive to be proper reason.’
“’You know my name?!” Never had I mentioned it, not that I could recall – and surely I had not said a word about my discharge!
“She nodded. ‘Of course I know. It is my duty.’ Her hands slid around my waist as she placed her head against my chest, her hair tickling my skin in a strangely comfortable way. Not that I had never experienced this before, naturally, but it was strange to sit like this in a temple of Alyssa! ‘Now you are ready to talk,’ she whispered. ‘I am listening to you.’
“So I began to talk, and I did not stop for over an hour. She never asked a single question, but when I was finished, it seemed as if she remembered every single word, every pause, every sigh, and she told me a story of her own. It was just a fable, not real at all, yet it resonated in my heart, and I felt something change.
“When I left the temple that day, I felt elated, as if something new had begun. I went across town, as if I saw it for the first time in my life. I saw the people, their joy, their misery, their lives. Lives like the ones I had cut down mercilessly in the service of my country for over a decade.
“In the evening I returned to the temple, and for the first time I did not even consider indulging in the pleasures of the flesh when I saw the priestesses. Instead I asked for the one priestess that had opened my heart – and realized I had never asked for her name. Still, she found me. She had been waiting for me all day, knowing that I would be back.
“Her name was Lachatte, and she revealed a new world to me. Her affection, her concern – and not least her knowledge of life – transformed me. It was during those conversations that I truly understood what it meant to be a priest of Alyssa.
“It isn’t about the pleasure of the flesh at all. That is merely a welcome side aspect; no, it is about curing the woes of people. Lifting the veils from their eyes, allowing them to see where the roots of their problems are and how they can be solved. To do that properly, you need to know about life, you need to have felt the pain, you need to have been in the places that your supplicants have.
“It is the exact opposite of the destructive life I had led before, and I found that this was exactly what I wanted to do. Help rather than hurt. Use all my pain, my rage for the purpose of improving others.
“Half a year after my wife left me, I entered the temple as a novice. Three years later I was consecrated to Alyssa, and together with my dearest Lachatte I left to found a new temple in the outskirts of Marsey, where both of us have spent the next thirty years.”
by G.A. Quintilian: This text was written in 3153 A.E. When the revolution
broke out in Ibrollene a year later, Paype and Lachatte were forced to
flee their homeland to Arrufat. In the decade since I have been trying to
find out about their fates, in vain. I pray to Venus that she has kept
them safe, and I hope to learn of them sometime.)
“I was honored to be permitted to witness the consecration ceremony at the temple of Alyssa. It is a rare occasion for someone outside the order to enter the innermost rooms, and rarer still to see this most sacred of ceremonies. Although I had been King Armyron’s supervisor of the Alyssian order for more than five years, this was the first time I had ever seen the hall of consecration. A splendid hall it is, the culmination of the architect’s dreams, I believe. A long oval, bisected by a broad aisle leading to an altar shaped like a shell. To the right of the altar, there stands a tall golden statue of the male form of the Goddess, the youth Allywell; to the left, the Lady’s true form is depicted in a similar statue. The walls are rounded as well, its marble surface shaped so that it looks organic, without any edges, blending perfectly into one another.
“I sat in the front row, on the right side, along with male dignitaries of the order. The head priest and priestess stood before the altar, garbed in long red robes that bore the tear and rose symbol of Alyssa on the back. Both were in their sixties, and I marveled how sensual they still looked. Norkar’s body was powerful, his muscles showing no sign of age, and the noble cut of his face defied the wrinkles so proudly they faded into non-existence. Tarima… I had known her for many years, had enjoyed her attention on many occasions, and sometimes I had wept that her beauty would fade away, that her curves would sag to a wrinkly mass; yet not a single part of her body had succumbed to gravity, and her face was as virile as ever. Her hair had gone completely white, but it framed her face as lustily as it had in its red-colored prime.
“The two joined hands as soft music began to play from the organ. ‘Be welcomed, dear friends,’ Norkar said, and Tarima smiled at me. ‘A glad welcome to you, Honorable Councillor Vengist. May you ever feel the Lady’s blessing on you and enjoy this ceremony as much as the Lady wishes.’
“Both then looked down the aisle towards the white elfwood doors, shaped like a flower. I craned my head and saw the ‘petals’ peel off slowly, retracting into the wall through an unseen mechanism. Beyond the door there was darkness, and only the shadow of a figure visible. The figure stepped forward, in tune with the music – and I frowned.
“It was definitely a woman who entered, but her girth was enough to rival a young horse dragon’s. The face seemed more a blob, drenched with red from the effort of taking the steps.
“This was supposed to become a priestess of Alyssa? I surely felt pity for the woman. I never doubted that she hated her appearance, had tried with all her force to lose weight. But… to serve in the temple? As a priestess? What man would ever choose her? What man would ever truly open up to her? Would she not be distraught and depressed over being alone within a temple of the utmost joy?
“I suppressed my discomfort as best I could. (Yet the twinkle in Tarima’s eyes indicated she knew clearly what I was feeling.)
“The novice continued her way down the aisle until she stood before the High Priests. Both embraced her and kissed her on her cheeks. After a moment, Norkar and Tarima stepped back. In unison, they said, ‘Daughter Lezlienil, thou hast finished thine time of apprenticeship. Thou hast seen the need of the many. Thou hast been shown the way to soothe the souls. Dost thou see in thyself the strength to give what is needed?’
“’I do,’ she answered, her voice deep and grumbling to my ears.
“The High Priests smiled. ‘Then thou wilst kneel before the Lady.’
“The novice slowly folded herself to her knees, in her robe looking more like a sack of potatoes collapsing. ‘Shed thine clothes,’ Tarima said softly.
“Repulsion raced through me, as the novice opened her robe and let it slip from her flabby shoulders. I couldn’t close my eyes – it would be too much of an insult to the priests, none of whom seemed disturbed by the mound of blubber in front of the altar.
“Norkar turned to the altar and lit a candle. A sweet scent quickly wafted through the hall, too strong to issue from a single candle. ‘Lady of Highest Esteem,’ he said, ‘here is a supplicant who wishes to enter the halls of your pleasure. She has our confidence, she has our love. Please, oh Lady, grant thine love to shine on Lezlienil.’
“At that point the music stopped, and the hall fell silent. I don’t recall how long exactly the silence lasted. To me it seemed like hours; hours in which I wondered whether Alyssa would reject the novice, whether she would add insult to the poor woman’s injury of fatness.
“Then a soft glow began to surround the statues, reflections glittering all over their golden surface. A voice ran through the hall, heavenly soft and warm, yet strong at the same time. ‘I feel the love of my priests. I feel the love of Lezlienil who has come to give of what is needed. I accept her as my daughter, and my child will be cherished by all.’
“A shiver ran through the novice’s back, accompanied by a sigh or a sob – I couldn’t tell, but clearly it was joyful. At least, I thought, she has this moment of joy. Oh, yes, love can be cruel, and so, I was convinced, would the Goddess of Love prove hard to her daughter.
“The glow around the statues grew stronger – and tendrils weaved their way to Lezlienil. Within moments, a similar glow enveloped the naked novice, hiding her from my sight. The glow grew stronger, deeper, more golden, and red streams of light flowed towards the statues. Music was playing in the background, but so beautiful that no mortal’s instrument could have generated it.
“Long minutes passed, with more and more of the red light flowing from the novice while the gold was pulsating. Slowly the red faded away, and the tendrils of pure gold danced merrily around the novice’s body. Finally they too faded – and my heart missed a beat.
“Where before there had been nothing but flab, I now saw the straight back of a slim woman. Curves there were still aplenty, but these could never inspire disgust but rather the opposite. My eyes glazed over, staring at Lezlienil.
“Norkar nodded to her. ‘Rise, sister, and turn around.’
“The new priestess unsteadily got to her feet. For years she must have been used to all the weight that had now vanished, and moving a slim, muscled body was a completely different affair. Yet there already was a grace to her movements; the same grace that all the servants of Alyssa share. And when she turned around, I knew I would never have recognized the fat novice in this alluring woman, whose beauty was perfect.
“I was ashamed of myself. How could I have so mistrusted the Lady? After all the years of supervising the order! I have witnessed so many acts of goodness that I should have known Alyssa could not be this cruel!
“Now Tarima stepped forward and looked straight at me. And I blushed. By all the Gods, it’s true! I blushed like a strapling youth! ‘Now you understand, Honorable Vengist,’ she stated tenderly. ‘You feel shame, dear friend, and it is good to feel that. Shame can open the way to a better understanding of life. Yet,’ she smiled and held out her hand to Lezlienil, ‘it would be cruel to allow you to feel thus for long. Therefore you will now take part in the closing ceremony, if you accept. Honorable Councillor, will you accompany my sister to her room and give her the opportunity to take away your worries?’
“My face was burning as I looked at Lezlienil. She had become so beautiful, so… And her smile! She knew exactly what I had been thinking! Yet there was so much joy burning in her eyes, so much appreciation – and an obvious invitation.
“I would have loved to sink through the floor right then and there. How could I accept this? Would that not reveal how shallow I truly am?
“Thankfully Lezlienil solved the problem. She walked over to me, her scent rising into my nose, took my hands and guided me to my feet. She molded her naked body to mine, pulled my head down and kissed me.
“Oh, I will never forget what happened afterwards, but I won’t write it down. Better to confine it to my memory, where that day stands out as one of those I cherish the most. Since that day, I have made it my task to get to know Lezlienil in particular, but also to learn about all the novices, male and female, to understand who and what they are, despite their appearance which sometimes can be as awful as Lezlienil’s had been.
“I probably should mention that Lezlienil has become a good friend and confidante. My wife considers her sort of a daughter, and – surprisingly enough – she doesn’t mind this priestess’s attentions given to me. (As well as, I suspect, my eldest son. He always manages to be home when Lezlienil is visiting, no matter how much work is waiting in the dragonrider corps. Who knows where this may lead?)”
“Red is the color of blood, red is the color of life, red is the color of love. Therefore it is only proper that red is the color of the cleric devoted to the Lady of Highest Esteem. A red as pure as blood, as pure as life, as pure as love, it shall be worn proudly by each priest.
“He or she may wear any type of clothing, provided that the Lady’s color is pre-eminent.”
“The Lady’s Breviary, All Editions”, Section on Holy Orders
ya can always tell a priest of Alyssa. Doncha worry ‘bout that, friend.
Them’s always the prettiest o’the girls – an’, well, I suppose,
the boys, too -, an’ ya just gotta look for a red coat or a red blouse
or somethin’. Aside from that, them’s usually wearin’ pretty loose
clothing, all billowin’ about an’ makin’ ya dreama what’s inside.
Or the clothes’re that darn tight that ya don’t need no dreamin’,
but instead, ya’ll be slaverin’ like a mad dog. Nah,
ya can’t miss’em!”
“There are no rules as to how an Alyssian temple is constructed. None that are written down in the breviary, anyway. When I was contracted to design a new temple for Hallowton’s District of the One Hundred, the priests only said that it was supposed to be ‘beautiful’. As if anything else were conveivable!
“Well, I had been given several months to come up with the design, so I took the liberty to travel and visit a few of the temples in the neighborhood as well as study descriptions of temples erected in other nations around Gushémal. (Thank goodness that the Darawk priests are so notorious in collecting and keeping every little scrap of information they can snatch.)
“I found that at first every temple looks different. There does not seem to be any continuing design; save for the fact that the rose and tear symbol of the Lady has been worked into every temple front.
“A temple in Arrufat usually has white walls; airy, wide windows and curved doorways; a roof of red shingles; pillars at the front that bear reliefs. Inside, the halls are wide and built so that there is a constant draft of fresh breeze to relieve the heat of the sun burning down.
“Ibrollene’s temples had some similarities. Unfortunately, they rarely can still be studied, since the majority was torn down during the revolution or renovated and altered for different purposes. According to historical records, Ibrollenians preferred to paint their temples a slight rose color. There were more curves worked into the entire structure, giving the building more of an organic semblance. The shingles on the roof were commonly red as well, and the design inside was also aimed at providing relief from the heat. Owing to Ibrollene’s more southerly location, more of the temples also had heating arrangements and methods to completely shut down the breeze.
“Our own temples generally are of a more straightforward design. Rectangular buildings, windows, doorways. Not very imaginative, one might think, yet our architects have not been lagging and have yet been interested in appealing to the Lady’s tastes. The colors painted on the walls and used on the roofs are different every time, and the walls themselves are almost always covered with reliefs carved out of the stone that depict the most enticing and beautiful scenes from the legends about the Lady of Highest Esteem.
“What I found during my research was that the temples of Alyssa invariably reflect the tastes and design principles of the people building them rather than any prerequisites of the goddess. Perhaps that is most fitting, as the goddess herself cherishes an individual’s strength and wishes to draw the beauty to the forefront.
“As I mentioned initially, there are some unwritten rules. They are more a reflection of the temple’s purpose than a high principle of construction. In general, one will find a large hall near the entrance of the temple that is furnished like a banquet hall, a place where people meet to celebrate and get to know each other. Its exact furnishings again are based on the preferences of the nation; in Arrufat there are many small tables with cushions, where visitors and priests can lounge and enjoy, taking freely food and drink from trays distributed irregularly around; in Cayaboré, the taste runs more to long tables and benches, the customary food and drink served by the clerics.
“Invariably there is an altar in this hall. The temple’s high priest and priestess hold mass in this hall every day, yet often enough it does not disrupt the conversations and laughter. This does not insult the priest, for it is the joyous celebration that is most desired by the goddess. It is here that the visitor can find the ease to unload his worries, to talk to a priest or priestess.
“If the problem cannot be solved in the hall, the cleric will take the visitor to his or her private quarters which are commonly arrayed around the outer wall of the building, always with a window. The clerics’ rooms are much larger than those usually found in temples or monasteries, comfortably furnished according to the taste of the inhabitant. Most of these rooms possess at least one specific architectural feature, for instance a mosaic or an indoor fountain or a certain twist to the room’s layout to make it unique.
“Oftentimes there are also a number of similarly styled and fully furnished rooms, but they are not occupied. Instead they are open to those visitors who need some time alone and unwatched, yet do not desire the presence of a cleric. These rooms can always be reached through a side entrance, known as ‘The Sneakers’ Way’. (Of course they are used for, ah, regular visitors as well.)
“Aside from that, no temple of Alyssa resembles the other. After finishing my research, I decided that I would not use the common building practices of Cayaboré. Rather I merged as many construction styles from around Shane’s Sea as I could while maintaining a look of serene beauty that I feel suits the Lady of Highest Esteem most of all. I am looking forward to seeing my design drawings finally turned into reality. The construction skeletons are already in place, and each day the work proceeds to add a few more stones of reality to my vision. Less than a year, and I invite each and everyone of you to come and marvel at the temple for yourself.”
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the Alyssa temple back home! Believe me, it’s…
“Well… All right, so I probably would have had a chance otherwise, too, but… I would have had to change lots of things, things that I really have no desire in changing. Is it my fault that Dequira’s father has such a temper? Not to mention that wicked axe of his! Boy, I dreaded every moment in their home, with her father playing with that axe like it were some light papiermaché toy. Couldn’t wait to get out, far away from where he could see Dequira and me.
“So, off we went to the temple, through the Sneaker’s Entrance, where her father couldn’t find us. Even if he had, boy, I really would have enjoyed seeing him rage, with all those pretty girls all over him. Boy, he’d have quieted down something fast, now wouldn’t he?
“Anyway, he didn’t find us. I’m sure he would’ve, if we’d been in some barn around there. Friends told me he’d been scouting out all the places every time the two of us were together. Hah! Serves him right!
“Me, I’ll tell you, first thing I do when I come to a new town is find out where the local Alyssa temple is. You never know when it might come in handy.”
All the following entries are excerpted from the Artusamak, the
order’s holy book of blessings. These are only brief descriptions; the
book contains more specific instructions on how and when to apply these
spells. If the reader is interested in learning more, there are a number
of appropriate books available. I recommend that you ask at the nearest
Darawk Academy for further information; it is likely that their library
will hold one or the other helpful volume.
Blessing of Love’s Flower Blossoming
“The Lady of Highest Esteem grants the rejected or ignored lover to find the joy and salvation he or she seeks. The object of affection will feel the strength of desire, of the love that transcends the flesh; affection will seep into her or his self and mirror the feelings of the other.”
Curse of Love’s Flower Wilting
“If the Lady deems it right, then by this curse the bond of love shall be severed. Where once affection flowed freely, it shall now be interrupted. With its joyous freedom curtailed, no mirrored desire felt, love will shrivel and finally, depending on the intensity of the curse, it shall turn to hatred.”
Alyssargaiv (Blessing of Prowess)
“(Note: Only applicable to males) To those whose fleshly strength has waned or whom fate has never granted the firmness, this blessing will undo all the damage wrought upon them. The alyssargaiv ensures the shared joy and vigor that love demands, it makes the beneficiaries of the blessing rise above the ordinary and enter into a magnificent ocean of splendor.”
Blessing of Consuming Joy
“The Lady of Highest Esteem grants the recipients of this blessing the immediate utmost of joys, no matter the circumstances. Pleasure will pulsate through their bodies and consume their awareness, granting them sweet experience instead of the pallor of their ordinary lives.
“(Note: This blessing can also be used as a combative spell.)”
Blessing of Calming
“Little has been as disastrous in the affairs of the heart as the upchurned emotions after misunderstandings or hearing rumors. Through this blessing, the cleric may give the beneficiary the peace to calmly consider what had brought on the anger. From murderous rage, he or she will return to calm rationality, ready to listen to the priest’s view.
“(Note: This spell is most conducive during therapy sessions. If the visitor to the temple does not appear ready to share his or her feelings but rather indulge emptily in the pleasures of the flesh, this spell should be applied. Once the calm state is reached, the cleric is then able to seek for a proper way to aid the visitor.)