The Seas of Arnesia
The Pale Swordsman aka The Raven Queen
General Domains: Death, Fate, Prophecy, Time, Cold
Arnesian Domains: Sharks, Doldrums, Widows
Other Names: Pale Swordsman, Wielder of the Black Blade, Doom of Empires, White Death
Holy Symbols: A black raven’s head
Astral Realm: Pluton-that-Was/Letherna, the Citadel at the End of All Things
Divine Servitors: Sorrowsworn
The undisputed lord of death, fate, and the orderly flow of time, the Raven Queen is a bleak deity, loved by few, but feared by all. She is there in the eyes of the dying warrior, the snows of deep winter which cover the land, the trembling hand of a sickly crone, and the prophecies of mysterious oracles. Her touch is the changing of the seasons and the passage of decades, the fulfillment of prophecies long forgotten, and the inconceivable intertwining of factors which shape mortal destinies. Her worshipers seek to preserve the natural cycle of life and death and cast down those who believe themselves beyond the limitations of fate and time.
Despite her name, the Raven Queen is actually considered to be the feminine aspect of a duel-natured deity, with the masculine aspect being referred to as the Pale Swordsman. The Raven Queen is seen depicted as an aloof and darkly regal figure, holding sway over fate and prophecy. She is said to hold court for the souls of the dead, guiding them to their final destinations. The Pale Swordsman, by contrast, is often associated with death, both of people and entire civilizations. He is a grim reaper-like figure, laying low the mighty and proud, and wandering blood-soaked battlefields to grant peace to the souls of the dying.
The Raven Queen is not a widely worshiped deity, for obvious reasons. Her grim and deterministic dogma turns away many in both civilization and in primal cultures. Even so, all Houses of the Nine include a shrine to her, however modest, and small sects of her followers typically can be found in most cities- for those determined to find them. She is honored with Swordsday, the appropriately final day of the week. In primal cultures, she is often depicted as a raven or crow, although some cultures, particularly in Arnesia, connect her to sharks. Here she is depicted as an enormous great white, dubbed White Death, who swims the seas of Creation, sending the weak and ill-fated to their final resting place.
Although the Raven Queen is not strictly evil, there are plenty of her followers who could very well be construed as such. Murder cults and assassin guilds sometimes form in her name, as do fanatical orders dedicated to exterminating those who do not revere the Raven Queen above all others. Because the Raven Queen is a generally impersonal deity, those seeking to win her favor must prove their own worth, power, and devotion. Sometimes these supplicants become little better than bandits and reavers, killing those weaker than themselves in the name of the Goddess of Death.
Among the most mysterious and terrifying of the Raven Queen’s faithful were the legendary Reckoners, a cabal of assassins, spies, and dark magicians dedicated to eradication of entire empires who they believed had become too arrogant and powerful. From assassinating kings to sparking wars to crashing entire economies, the Reckoners went to any lengths necessary to humble the mighty. The pride of the Reckoners was, ironically, their own undoing- during the War of the Burning Sky their actions, meant to destroy both Arkhosia and Bael Turath in fact perpetuated the war and turned the forces of both empires against them. Today, all that remains of the Reckoners are a few moldy tomes, vague legends, and empty mausoleums.
The Raven Queen’s astral domain, Pluton, was all but annihilated in primeval days, possibly by demons, other gods, or the Queen herself. Today it is a barren, ashen desert, littered with crumbling ruins and home to nameless horrors. Instead, the Queen resides in her fortress-palace of Letherna, located in the Shadowfell. From there she directs of souls of the dead to their final destinations, perhaps in the divine realm of a god of the fires of the Nine Hells, but mostly to the realm outside the universe, past the veil of death where even the Raven Queen cannot glimpse. She is assisted in this task, as well as the citadel’s defense, by the Sorrowsworn, her divine servants, risen from the ranks of her most powerful and devoted followers.
The Raven Queen is the best deity to worship because
she is the mistress of the inevitable, the lady of that which must come to pass. Her followers guard the balance of existence, scours the blight of undeath from the world, and maintain the web of fate. She is not fawning, but neither is she evil- the Raven Queen awards those who merit it, and punishes those who threaten the worlds of the living and the dead.
The Raven Queen is the worst deity to worship because
she is as uncaring as the grave, as remorseless as the reaper’s scythe, and as cold as the winds of winter. She does indeed loathe such horrors as undead, but only because they act against her- not for any altruistic reasons. Her follower are often nihilists, zealots, and murderers, and the Raven Queen doesn’t seem to mind that fact.