Rise of the Runelords
Savor the three stings of passion, guile, and vengeance. No food you ever taste and no thing you ever build will satisfy you as much as my gifts. – The Book of Joy
THE SAVORED STING
Goddess of lust, revenge, and trickery
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Domains: Chaos, Charm, Knowledge, Luck, Trickery
Favored Weapon: Whip
Centers of Worship: Absalom, Galt, Kyonin, Nex, The River Kingdoms, The Shackles, Taldor, Varisia
Obedience: Engage in sexual activity with another individual in exchange for money, information, or another valuable resource. This must be a willing act on both your parts; you should not endanger yourself or otherwise enter a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Pray aloud to Calistria before and after the act, and encourage your partner to do the same.
If no suitable partner is available, wrap yourself in yellow silk and hold your holy symbol against your chest. Meditate on the teachings of Calistria and fantasize about taking vengeance against one who wronged you.
Gain a +4 sacred or profane bonus on Charisma checks and Charisma-based skill checks when interacting with an intelligent creature that could be sexually attracted to you. The type of bonus depends on your alignment-if you’re neither good nor evil, you must choose either sacred or profane the first time you perform your obedience. Once made, this choice can’t be changed…
Calistria is the most widely worshiped elven goddess on Golarion – an ancient deity with a long memory for old slights, at once mysterious, alluring, temperamental, and passionate. Although most of her worshipers are elves, she is popular with other races as well, for at some point almost everyone has felt the fire of lust, engaged in trickery, or been driven to revenge. She is not so much a spiritual guide for the elven people as a cornerstone for their culture, never pushing them to act but always ready to assist when the time comes for action.
The Savored Sting is a sultry manifestation of everything in elves that is fascinating to other races, attracting men and women alike with her raw sexual magnetism. Her beauty is typically characterized as sensual, desirable, and arousing, or described in more vulgar terms. Gazing on Calistria’s clothed body, viewers wonder what she looks like naked; her nude form drives their curiosity to even more intimate places. Although she considers herself female, Calistria has been known to take on a male form that is attractive enough to make any mortal flushed and weak in the knees.
She is mischievous, perplexing, devious, and silver-tongued, disarming her most powerful rivals with pretty words that, upon careful reflection, reveal themselves as humiliating insults. She “surrenders” by convincing enemies to hand over their weapons, leads suitors on for decades with hints of outrageous rewards, and outwits the most brilliant mortals as an afterthought. Though her sense of humor is rich and sharp, she considers silly jokes and crude pranks beneath one who can convey an hour’s speech in one small gesture and a lifetime of emotion with a careful look. Lies are her meat and drink, half truths are her favorite wine, and double entendres are a luscious dessert.
Calistria enjoys a quick resolution to petty affronts, but she is patient, unforgiving, and merciless when more seriously offended, willing to punish the offender with exacting artistry beyond the ken of mortals. Calistria does not forgive, she does not forget, and any evidence to the contrary is part of her plan to sting a foe in the most painful way possible after he believes the threat of vengeance is long past. She is a goddess of vengeance, not justice, and feels no compulsion to stop at taking an eye for an eye; if she pushes beyond a response others might deem appropriate, it should serve as a lesson to those who get in her way.
Though gracious and personable to those who haven’t drawn her ire, Calistria is fickle, changing loyalties as suits her needs and whims. Her changeability is not malicious; rather, she is uninterested in relationships becoming too strong or too emotional, believing such bonds to be foolish. Most of her partners and allies accept the affection she grants them and then move on, but those who persist in the chase after she has tired of being the prey find her claws sharp and certain. She sees love only as a weakness, a needless by-product of physical pleasures.
Calistria welcomes the worship of any mortal who lusts, deceives, or seeks revenge; she hears the prayers of the good, evil, unjustly accused, selfish, moral, criminal, and love-struck alike. Regardless of methods or motives, if a mortal’s actions touch her concerns, she takes an interest in the outcome and may aid in achieving it. Her worshipers are thus diverse, but mostly transitional, only seeking her attention when they need her. As she in turn only engages with others when her interest is piqued, this satisfies her, and she does not ask for more.
Some mortals, unable to emulate or understand her shifting interests and allegiances, accuse Calistria of being evil, but in truth, she is simply amoral, eschewing right, wrong, and justice because she knows that the universe is not a fair place. If others choose to follow her path, so be it; if some are hurt by such a decision, she stands as a reminder that every creature has the right-and the responsibility-to avenge their injuries.
Calistria is usually depicted as a beautiful elven woman wearing a figure-hugging black dress accented with gold, often with a black or golden silk drape falling from her arms or drawn seductively across her face. Her eyes are dark and mysterious, but sometimes flash gold with passion or anger. She is commonly shown with giant wasps, her favorite creature – for unlike bees, wasps can sting again and again without dying. In her male form she usually wears a masculine version of her normal shape, with black leggings and a loose golden jerkin and cape, eyes smoldering with barely contained passion. Depending on the views of the surrounding society, Calistria’s worshipers are also not afraid of depicting her in more scandalous attire or situations, and sexually explicit art featuring the goddess is common.
Calistria’s holy symbol is three daggers pointing outward from a circle (representing her three aspects); many of her clergy carry daggers in her honor. Most of her priests are clerics or bards, though in some places more exotic spellcasters are the norm for her clergy, and even some non-spellcasters reach positions of moderate importance in her priesthood based on their cunning and achievements. Her titles include the Savored Sting, the Lady in the Room, and the Unquenchable Fire, as well as many vulgar epithets bestowed by those outside the faith.
Though any individuals bearing grudges may pray for Calistria’s favor until they have been satisfied, typical lifelong worshipers of Calistria are prostitutes, spies, hedonists, enchanters, and illusionists; rare non-evil assassins pursuing a justified blood debt or former slaves seeking revenge on their masters might also call on her aid.
Some crusaders, particularly elven ones, pray to Calistria to help achieve holy vengeance on their targets, and a fair number of shady merchants and con artists venerate her trickery aspect.
Though all races are welcome in the church, elves, humans, and humanoids of mixed race are by far the most common, whereas very few dwarves worship her – even among those avenging slights against clan or kin, Calistria’s shifting loyalties and disproportionate responses often seem shameful to dwarven society. Elven society, on the other hand, is by far the most accepting of her worship, as most elves see Calistria’s independence from commitment as the only path of sanity for members of a race that lives centuries.
Calistria shows her favor with ease in obtaining companionship, heightened physical pleasure, and easy marks for schemes or acts of vengeance. Those who displease her often find themselves plagued by impotence, inability to achieve sexual satisfaction, or angry wasps with an unerring ability to sting in sensitive places. Sometimes she delays the manifestation of her ire, allowing strings of positive events to culminate in eventual catastrophic failure to heighten the sting.
Ceremonies honoring Calistria may involve ritual sex, but generally are not elevated to the orgiastic excess described in the salacious stories of her detractors (though such rites do exist, and are often extremely popular). Most ceremonies take place in the temple, or outdoors in the natural settings typical of elven rituals.
Regular worship services include invocations of the goddess’s blessing over sexual encounters, the congregation’s encouragement and promises of aid to members seeking vengeance, the consumption of spiced wine, and the performance of pageants enhanced with illusion and theatrical tricks.
Special rituals conducted as needed include invocations of the goddess’s blessing when a worshiper begins pursuit of a desired lover, divinations to determine her approval or disapproval of set courses of revenge, initiation rites for those who wish to devote themselves to the faith, and birth and death ceremonies.
The church puts little stock in the formalities of marriage. While such unions serve a valuable function in society, most of the Savored Sting’s worshipers don’t have a strong urge to settle down with one person (elves’ longevity makes the prospect seem stifling to many) and they usually don’t confuse physical attraction with emotional affection (with some members seeing the latter as a dangerous liability). Some faithful consider any relationship that lasts more than a few months to be a “marriage,” though this confers no legal rights. Ending a relationship has no stigma, though these ends are often those sexually satisfied to be more benevolent toward others and less prone to violence-and the drive of pleasure anticipated, seeing lust as a spur to creativity and ambition.
The temples function as salons, ideal places to socialize, hear news and be seen, though their respect for privacy makes them good places for clandestine discussions as well. Evil temples are much like thieves’ guilds: places to plant rumors, seek evidence of unfaithful lovers, and make shady plans, while heightening the sharper and more excessive aspects of desire and its fulfillment.
Neutral temples (and elven temples in particular) try to mix both, taking a casual transactional approach to entertaining the lonely and lusty, and functioning as hubs for gossip and rumors, while avoiding the more violent plans for vengeance. Many temples encourage wasps to nest under their eaves; guided by magic, the insects leave the residents alone but react angrily to trespassers.
Wealthier temples may employ giant wasps as guardian creatures and spider eaters as flying steeds, while evil ones may bind abyssal the start of long-term feuds if one person feels slighted.
Some worshipers do see the appeal of long, committed relationships, but even these tend to be tolerant of other. partners, or even polyamorous. Lacking the weight of law in their relationships, most expect inheritance and similar matters to go to blood relatives rather than partners in mutable passionate relationships.
TEMPLES AND SHRINES
A typical Calistrian temple is a converted mansion with many rooms that can be locked for privacy. Each city can hold multiple temples, which often vary wildly in their interpretations of Calistria’s wisdom, and sometimes engage in serious and bloody doctrinal disputes. Even within a given temple, arguments can be quite dangerous, as few feuds escalate as drastically as those between two Calistrians.
The Savored Sting’s faith is as changeable as the goddess herself: each temple tends toward good, evil, or neutrality, and this influences the activities that take place there.
Good temples elevate both the sanctity of pleasure achieved-their doctrines decreeing wasp swarms to guard the temple. Some harvest venom from the wasps for use by the temple guards, or for sale. The practice of building shrines has never really caught on in Calistria’s church. Life itself is a pilgrimage for Calistrians, and so they have no once-in-a-lifetime destinations of sacred nature. Ancient standing stones at the site of old temples might bear phallic or yonic carvings, and flat stones might be carved with the names of acts of great vengeance that took place at the site, but in general the church prefers to preserve its symbols and history in stories and adages.
A PRIEST’S ROLE
The church sees prostitution as a sacred calling of power and pleasure, and its clergy are adamant about ensuring the safety of those who engage in sex as a profession; temples do not make their priests into victims, and accept only willing adults as initiates. In cities where the church holds sway, residents tread carefully around courtesans and streetwalkers alike, lest an abused escort call on the temple for aid in avenging herself.
All clergy undergo extensive training in the arts of conversation, body language, and seduction. Even the most uncomely or disagreeable priest knows how to turn on the charm at the right time, often surprising those who witness the change. Others may work alone or in groups – as spies, investigators (for individuals or the government), or smugglers of exotic materials.
Calistria’s church is organized democratically, and each priest receives a vote in temple affairs. Its hierarchy is very casual, with priests valued more for their ability to persuade others (or feared for their history of revenge) than their magical power. The high priest or priestess of a temple is addressed as “Revered One,” but otherwise, titles are often unique to their bearers. Individuals might earn various honorifics based on deeds, assigned by the head of the temple and customized for the recipient, such as “of the Gentle Hands,” “the Heartless Avenger,” “of the Hundred Faces,” or “the Shameless.” Most temples focus on local issues and ignore the works of their counterparts unless actively engaged in a vendetta against them.
Calistria’s emphasis on personal freedom means that there is no “typical day” for one of her priests. Good clergy address the goddess’s vengeance aspect by assisting patrons in finding legal recourse against those who wrong them, though they may resort to public shaming of guilty parties when the offense is inconsiderate rather than illegal (such as shoddy business practices, slander, or broken promises), or when the legal system does not provide satisfaction. They engage in sacred prostitution, and to a small extent they work as matchmakers, though usually for sexual interest rather than marriage.
Evil priests seduce others as leverage or future blackmail on behalf of themselves or clients, exchange valuable secrets, and make plots to unseat influential leaders or strong-arm reluctant merchants. A few work as thieves or assassins for the church, or even for the highest bidder, acting anonymously or under a pseudonym. The most alluring members demand payment in the form of secrets, exacerbating clients’ lust in order to drive their prices higher, and fanning the flames of jealousy to inspire acts of revenge. Some lead double or triple lives as spies in extensive secret plots. Evil priests tend to be very competitive, trying to outdo their rivals in feats of intimacy, trickery, and vengeance, and as a result many are forced to wander for their own safety.
Priests of neutral temples advise petitioners on how best to pursue vengeance, usually urging them to find non-injurious recompense, though if the offense is great enough, they are not averse to giving advice or explicit aid in fulfilling a debt of blood. Viewing knowledge as valuable but neither good nor evil, they often fill their temple’s coffers by brokering information, remaining aloof from the help or harm done with it. In some communities, a lone priest may be greatly respected and feared for what he knows and the careful web of peace he brokers with flesh and promises.
Alchemy, herbalism, and potion making are common pastimes among priests, and some make a living selling poisons, aphrodisiacs, love potions, contraceptives, abortifacients, and their counteragents. Even good priests sell nonlethal poisons designed to embarrass or humiliate the target (such as laxatives, those that simulate drunkenness, and so on).
The followers of Norgorber carefully watch Calistria’s priesthood to make sure they aren’t overstepping their bounds or undercutting prices. If a temple has guardian wasps, the priests might be responsible for caring for or magically influencing them, and many become used to stings and resistant to venom. Some keep unusually large specimens as pets, and a few priests are known within the church for their cat-sized pet wasps with abilities similar to a familiar.
While temples rituals can vary, one of the most common is the Rite of the Triple Sting, a test faced when a temple initiate has completed his novitiate. In this test, the initiate must disguise himself and, in this new guise, seduce someone who has wronged him. The candidate must play upon the target’s lust for him to lure her into revealing secrets that, if publicly exposed, would humiliate or even ruin her, or if she has no such secrets, into activities that could do the same. Once he has obtained this power over her, he must expose her vulnerability in public, and, his vengeance accomplished, reveal his true identity.
Once his sponsors in the temple have judged his attempt as worthy of Calistria’s approval, the priest undergoes his initiation into the priesthood. This usually starts with a fast from sunset to sunset, alone in the temple, that he might experience the hunger that drives people to revenge. At sunset, a masked priest leads him to a private chamber, where he drinks from a cup of sharply spiced, honeyed wine, that he may taste the fire, the sweetness, and the intoxication that together comprise lust. Masked clergy members attend him and he selects a partner. The priests remove his clothes and burn them, discarding his old identity and welcoming him to his new one as a servant of the Savored Sting. Hallucinogenic herbs laced into the wine heighten both the mystical aspect and the disorientation of the experience as the initiate couples with a priest that may or may not be the one he chose.
Some clerics who have dared to remove their partner’s mask during the rite claim that the goddess herself lay beneath it, though such claims are usually dismissed as braggadocio or the effects of the psychoactive herbs in the wine. After the effects wear off, the new priest is escorted to a ritual bath and given his first set of clerical robes. His sponsors declare him sealed to the goddess, and begin filling him in on the temple’s secrets.
Calistria’s church is not known for its altruistic healing, though its priests have been known to sell cures for money or favors. Sometimes they heal without demanding payment, saying only that they will collect a service at some point in the future. Priests concerned with the goddess’s lustful side are usually skilled at Acrobatics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Escape Artist, Intimidate, or Sense Motive. Priests more attracted to her vengeful aspect study methods that aid them in finding their targets, such as Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, Knowledge, and Sense Motive. Priests attracted to her trickster role usually focus on skills appropriate to thieves, deceivers, or diplomats, depending on the type of deception they enjoy.
A follower of Calistria declares himself either a thrillseeker and hedonist or someone who ever forgives a slight. If he carries vengeance in his heart or a strong desire for the pleasures of the flesh, then he will find a willing ally in Calistria. In his mind, the world is a garden of delights, and he is determined to experience them all. If something stands in his way or causes him injury, he is more than willing to take revenge until his enemies call for mercy. A follower of Calistria is not necessarily cruel though he can be – nor is he evil unless it suits his natural predisposition to be so. While he might enjoy crushing his foes, he might also find an equal satisfaction in bringing joy to another and allowing the person to find bliss and release in the union of their bodies. When someone worships the Savored Sting, he chooses above all to live life on his own terms, without the moral compass others might try to impose on him.
Calistria has long been a favored goddess of the elves because of her focus on personal freedom, and it may be that the elves’ long lifespans are what make her hard-nosed approach to individual liberty so popular. (After all, some relationships grow old after a few centuries, and an elf who follows Calistria is always free to reassign his affections.)
Half-elves and other half-breeds who were the product of exotic unions often support her as a way of embracing their heritage, and gnomes’ constant search for variety and novelty makes her a natural fit for them as well. Calistria herself is generally imagined in the form of an elf, yet seems perfectly willing to accept the worship of anyone with a slight to avenge or a desire to make his body an altar.
Formal clothing for Calistria’s clergy is generally scant, typically dark leather or yellow silk that covers little and conceals even less, often augmented with henna dyes on the palms of the hands and in narrow bands on the arms, though individual clergy members tailor their clothing to their own styles of seduction. Some priests like to add other accent clothing like a wasp’s colors, but most eventually grow out of this habit, as the insect represents the goddess but is not inherently divine or worthy of emulation.
Adventurer-priests favor gold jewelry and gold plating or decorations on their armor. Church paraphernalia is usually made of slender wood or fine gold, and often includes erotic carvings or sculpture.
Although Calistria’s followers recommend several works of theater and literature as shining examples of how to execute the perfect seduction or revenge, the only text they hold as sacred is The Book of Joy. Some versions of this guide to passion include illustrations of sexual positions, instructions on reading and manipulating others’ emotions, or collected anecdotes on satisfying revenge schemes to address various offenses; the sections included in each temple’s unique copy of the text say much about the temple’s leadership.
Conservative cities sometimes make it illegal to possess a copy, but mischievous Calistrians print portions of the book as one-page “penny bibles” showing the most erotic portions of the manuscript in the hope of eliciting curiosity in the readers.
Calistria’s church as a whole has no set holidays, although each temple has established its own holidays to commemorate the avenging of old slights or great conquests and epic acts of trickery.
To punctuate their vengeful desires, Calistria’s worshipers circulate several bitter sayings and deadly sentiments.
I Stab Thee With My Heart: When carefully planned vengeance comes to fruition, the satisfaction of it is as exhilarating as any intimate act. The faithful whisper this saying as their daggers strike home, leave it in notes when explaining their targets’ downfalls, and crow it during particularly juicy acts of revenge. Oddly, in the rare cases where members of the church pursue genuine love, couples use this expression to indicate the intensity of their feelings for one another.
Love the Food, Not the Chef: This saying is used as an admonition against the transgression of falling in love with the target of one’s lust. It is consumed by vengeance to the exclusion of all other things. There is more to life than revenge, and there and there are many joys one can experience even while seeking retribution
RELATIONS WITH OTHER RELIGIONS
Calistria’s interactions with other gods are complex and strewn with contradictions. Some stories even suggest that she was the force behind the creation or destruction of certain deities. Each temple has its own idea about which stories are true and which are false, and these differences only escalate the conflicts between factions. All agree that the other gods treat her very carefully and respectfully, as they fear her reprisal for an unintended slight.
In general, Calistria and Shelyn get along well, as erotic love leads to sex and common lust can turn into love, though Calistria believes Shelyn’s insistence on love is a weakness.
Calistria finds Urgathoa distasteful but respects her lust for life.
She is intrigued by Norgorber and willing to work with him, though he is never quite sure if he is somehow being manipulated.
She respects Desna, but thinks she’s a little toohung up on her failures and setbacks.
Calistria and Cayden Cailean are on very friendly terms, and just how friendly is the subject of much speculation.
Calistria’s worshipers are open to dealing with members of most other faiths, provided it suits their needs or desires at the moment. Most of them evaluate people as individuals rather than members of groups or followers of creeds.
While they are implacably vengeful if roused, Calistrians rarely judge a person on the basis of social standing, ethnicity, or personal history. Their attitudes toward members of faiths they consider prudish range from amused to contemptuous, and some take a certain impish pleasure in seducing those with such beliefs.
Every person presents an opportunity for rewarding exchanges of money, information, or caresses, so Calistrians are generally amiable until they are wronged. They tend to be found
in cities, where it’s easiest to indulge their hedonism and find willing partners, and have little interest in associating with those who would get in the way of their revels.
Followers of Cayden Cailean tend to get along well with Calistria’s faithful, and Shelynites focused on the beauty of eroticism often find common interests with Calistrians, who are ever attentive to the eroticism of beauty.
Despite her neutral nature, Calistria calls the fields of Elysium home. The fickle goddess often shifts her realm’s location and size, and it’s not uncommon for those seeking its borders to be unable to find it, or those who’d prefer to avoid it to stumble unprepared into its gardens of sensual delights. In this sense, Calistria’s realm uniquely matches the goddess herself: beautiful, inviting, playful-and completely untrustworthy. Visitors might gradually notice the slight buzzing of wasps in the deep and otherwise silent forest, and then quite abruptly find themselves wandering a hedge maze of rose bushes or standing before one of the Savored Sting’s palatial, baroque manors. Though Elysium may focus on positive and benevolent aspects of freedom and chaos, Calistria’s minions don’t always take the same tack, and her pleasure palaces can be extremely dangerous for the unwary.
In addition to her servitor race, the vendenopterixes (see page 281), Calistria often sends the following entities to further her causes.
Menotherian: Appearing alternately as a perfect elf or a bear-sized wasp, Calistria’s herald maintains an ardent curiosity about mortal elves. The Menotherian is a creature of spirit but has a physical body, and sometimes seeks attractive elves (using her elven form) to satisfy her carnal desires; this overwhelming experience is a sign of great favor among the devout. For more information, see page 280.
Threv (unique protean): This frog-like, shape-changing sorcerer has gray skin and strangely expressive eyes. Obsessed with vengeance, he is often the agent of Calistria’s ire in the mortal world when she isn’t angered enough to send her herald. He works cheaply for mortals seeking revenge, although those that lie to him to get a discount find themselves the target of his ire.
Tordurbar (unique chaos beast): Though most chaos beasts alternate between horrible forms, this strange being usually appears as a large fleshy mass, with heads, mouths, eyes, hands, hair, and various organs sprouting randomly and being reabsorbed in short order; in battle, it takes on more dangerous forms. Though it accepts payments for services in coin or magic, it prefers sexual favors, whether the summoner is male or female. It does not speak (except to coo and moan), preferring telepathic communication.
Velvet Wing (unique vendenopterix): A tan elven seductress with slightly ragged insect wings, this beautiful vendenopterix (see page 281) is often mistaken for a succubus. Her kisses and other intimate acts drain Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma (her choice), and she is adept at mimicking a specific person’s voice and mannerisms.