Desna

Blessed is the long road, the destination. The homeward path, and all who make the journey. Let each dream be a bright star in the night sky of your mind, lighting your path in the day. -Prayer carved on a shrine near Magnimar

SONG OF THE SPHERES

Goddess of dreams, luck, stars, and travelers
Desna_holy_symbol.jpg
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Domains: Chaos, Good, Liberation, Luck, Travel
Favored Weapon: Star Knife
Centers of Worship: Kyonin, Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Nidal, Numeria, River Kingdoms, Ustalav, Varisia
Nationality: Varisian
Obedience: Dance in a random pattern beneath the light of the stars, trusting in the guidance of destiny. If no stars are currently visible, softly sing or chant all of the names of stars that you know as you perform your dance. Let your mind expand and turn your thoughts away from where your feet might land, allowing your steps to fall where chance wills. When the dance feels complete, cease dancing. Ponder the steps you took and the position in which you stopped, and consider what portents these subtle clues might hold for the future.
Gain a +1 luck bonus on initiative checks and a +4 sacred bonus on Perception checks made to determine whether you are aware of opponents just before a surprise round.

THE DEITY

Desna is an impulsive and aloof goddess who delights in freedom, discovery, and mystery.
Her aloofness stems not from arrogance, but from confidence in her own abilities and her desire to be unburdened by troubles. She is a collection of contrastsan ancient goddess who dislikes predicting the future, a traveler who cares nothing for her destination, a carefree creature of instinct haunted by a past stretching back eons, and a peaceful deity forced to battle with old enemies, eternally young despite the weight of ages and stars upon her.

Some believe Desna is flighty, frivolous, and easily distracted, but she has a cold side born of loss, tragedy, and battle. As a luck goddess, she always believes there is a chance for success, but knows that dreams can turn to nightmares and bright destinies can become dark fates; these opposites in her own nature define her and give her things to strive against. She challenges those who would corrupt her domain or who have wronged her friends or followers, striking at them with burning starlight, bad luck, and energies alien to Golarion.

Although her dominion over dreams and stars means that many seers, diviners, and mystics revere her as an informal goddess of prophecy, she delights in the freedom of people to choose their own destiny. She prefers to use prophecy as a tool for exploration and creating choices, not for limiting action and snuffing hope, and finds “doom and gloom” prophecies and those that seem to guarantee good people will commit horrible acts. She hands out such warnings only in the direst circumstances, generally in dreams, and if she must send dreams that portend despair, she may grace a follower in need with the benefit of a helpful spell upon awakening (such as aid, manic vestment, prayer, protection from evil, or remove fear) that persists throughout the day. Thus does she pair dark portents with hope that the outcome may still be bright.

When Desna has a message for one of her faithful, she prefers to intervene in dreams, sending simple impressions, visions, or even prophecies that the sleeper clearly remembers upon awakening. When dreams are unsuitable or time is short, she indicates her favor with flights of swallowtail butterflies, sparrows, dragonflies, geese flying in a four-pointed star shape, or the timely arrival of messenger birds. She typically shows her disfavor with dreamless sleep that fails to refresh the sleeper (as if the person had not slept at all), sore feet, messenger animals losing their messages, and minor travel accidents.

Desna watches over those who travel for any reason. Trailblazers, scouts, adventurers, and sailors all praise her name. (Although most sailors honor Gozreh in some fashion, he is a temperamental deity, and a little luck from Desna often comes in handy during a storm.) Her influence over luck also makes her a favorite among gamblers, thieves, and others who rely on fortune for shady dealings.

Desna teaches her followers to indulge their desires, experience all they can, and trust instinct as a guide. Her faithful are often wide-eyed, exuberant people, embracing the world in all its strangeness, and willing to jump in with both feet. Desnans aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, their feet wet, or their knuckles (or faces) bloodied while living life to its fullest. Critics call them hedonists, but that’s an exaggeration, as worldly experience, rather than pure sensation, is their true goal. Ascetics, hermits, and meticulous planners are unknown in her church. Her faithful teach that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, as sometimes a unique opportunity requires a split-second decision, whether it’s a chance to touch a dragon’s egg, savor a rare fruit, or passionately kiss the mayor’s son.

The goddess encourages her worshipers to believe in themselves and express their inner strengths, often in the form of music, dance, or theater. Many songs penned by her faithful become popular tunes for dancing and gatherings, and numerous old favorites are attributed to long-dead Desnan bards whose musical legacies have persisted for centuries. Some people believe the custom of a traveling bard paying for his lodging with a song stems from Desna’s church, and like bards, followers of Desna encourage young folk to sing and dance in the hope of discovering hidden talents.

Desna usually appears to her followers as a beautiful but remote elven acolyte of her faith. In this guise, she aids people in need or suggests relevant excerpts from her holy writings, The Eight Scrolls, as a way to lead the faithful on the correct path. She is not above singing to lighten dour moods or dancing with those whose confidence is in need of reinvigoration. When Desna wishes to reveal her true nature, she transforms her common clothing into a billowing silken gown and grows brightly colored butterfly wings on her back, although in somber situations her wing colors are pale and moth-like.

Desna’s holy symbol is a butterfly with images of stars, suns, and moons upon its wings. Most of her clergy are clerics, although about one-third of her priests are bards or rogues, with a number of neutral good druids and rangers also choosing her as their patron. She is called the Song of the Spheres, the Great Dreamer, Starsong, and the Tender of Dreams.

THE CHURCH

While Desna’s faith is ancient-known even in the age of storied Thassilon – the church is extremely disorganized, with few actual temples or settled priests, and no formal chain of command. Physical and magical might are respected, as are knowledge and experience, with personal expertise in a field trumping mere combat prowess or spellcasting ability. For example, when dealing with a basilisk’s attacks on a frontier town, a low-level cleric who has survived an encounter with the creature is accorded greater authority than a high-level character who has never faced one.

This structure means that Desnans have certain ideas about what they consider to be “informed” authority; they feel free to ignore nobles, politicians, and other “meritless” leaders if more knowledgeable folk are on hand to provide better advice. Although they can be competitive with others inside and outside the church, these are friendly rivalries; they prefer to move on if a disagreement is going to turn ugly – after all, there’s an entire world of wonder to explore, so there’s no sense wasting time on an argument.

Services dedicated to Desna include singing, dancing, storytelling (especially of unusual dreams), footraces, and music. Some use exotic substances, herbal drinks, alcohol, or animal venom to spark unusual or (for the very lucky) lucid dreams. Many rituals involve sand because of its relation to sleep and the comparison of grains of sand to the number of stars in the sky. Dust made from crushed rose quartz (which can have a starry pattern when illuminated from behind) is used in the faith’s rare ceremonies and blessings instead of water or sacred oil; Desnan priests carry holy quartz dust in glass flasks instead of holy water. Some luck-seeking faithful carry dice or other luck talismans carved of rose quartz.

TEMPLES AND SHRINES

Desna keeps few temples, preferring unattended shrines at crossroads and places of secluded beauty, like hilltops or peninsula points. Although unmanned, these shrines often hold simple provisions and a place to scrawl notes or feelings if visitors are so inspired. Her association with the stars and night sky means that her temples sometimes double as celestial observatories, or at least have one room partially open to the sky. In many cases, these observatories have markers on the walls or windows to indicate the positions of important stars on holy days (one room churches might have a single hole in the ceiling to show a particular star’s position, and keep the hole covered on other days to keep out rain or snow). Temples in large cities often take the form of tall towers with observatories at their tops, and with small libraries of astronomical and astrological charts. Rural temples usually incorporate an inn or stable as a service to travelers. As Desna maintains friendly-or, at least, non-conflicting-relationships with most good-aligned and civilized deities, it’s not uncommon for her faith to be among those practiced in communal temples.

Butterflies and moths (as well as their caterpillar young) congregate at her holy sites; legends say the priests can call upon these creatures to defend the temple, devouring cloth and leather to leave would-be thieves naked but unharmed. Some temples maintain colonies of silk-producing moths, creating hardy and beautiful silk for use and sale by the temple. Every temple protects a small chest of silver coins (usually no more than 300 sp), which it uses to help fund journeys by the faithful. Needy travelers can petition the temple for financing, but this funding is normally available only for frontier exploration or travel to exotic locations-a trip to the next town might merit only a silver for water, bread, and a spare blanket. Those who exploit this generosity tend to suffer bad luck in the long run.

A PRIEST’S ROLE

Priests of Desna-including clerics, bards, rogues, rangers, and occasionally druids-go where they please, earning money by telling fortunes, providing entertainment, and interpreting dreams. They help people when they can, but prefer to make their acts seem like luck, coincidence, or the blessings of their goddess. Common skills for priests are Diplomacy, Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (history), Profession (harrower), Ride, and Survival.

Many of Desna’s faithful are talented artists, writers, and entertainers, and the church expects all priests to at least be familiar with contemporary music, theater, and literature, even if an individual priest shows no talent for playing instruments, acting, or writing. Those without abilities in these areas are still taught to recognize such gifts in others and are expected to encourage the gifted to explore their talents. Worshipers with performance skills share them regularly at festivals, local venues, and celebrations such as weddings. The church also throws public parties to showcase such performances, and such events endear the church to the public, even ifthe offered fare is no more than cheese, warm bread, and watered wine.

Some Desnans are skilled fortune-tellers, using their gift for reading people to entertain and inspire hope. Like their goddess, they oppose the use of divination to create fear or despair; most brush off requests stemming from unhappiness or malice, such as when the listener or one of his enemies might die. The goddess expects her diviners to challenge any speaker who prophesies ill, misfortune, or doom, and when they hear of magical auguries predicting bad times, they actively intervene to make sure those events do not come to pass. In addition to soothsaying, some Desnans learn to interpret dreams in order to ease troubled minds and mend other wounds of the psyche. Recurring or shared dreams are of particular interest, as they often stem from inner traumas or external magical sources. Those plagued by insomnia or nightmares call on Desnan priests for aid, for their healing spells or even just a soothing touch are often enough to bring a tranquil night’s sleep.

A typical day for a Desnan priest involves an early prayer (often spoken in bed moments after waking), recording remembered dreams in a journal, breakfast, study (the arts if so inclined, geography or the culture of a foreign land if not), and any duties assigned by a more experienced priest if one is present. After a light lunch, the priest goes for a walk or ride, either to someplace new or by taking a new path to a known place. Once at his destination, he attends to his duties there, helps passersby who require his skills, possibly entertains at a local gathering spot, seeks a place to stay for the night, dines, prays, and sleeps. Caravan masters like to hire priests of Desna to accompany their wagons for luck, especially in regard to warding off attacks from beasts, and this gives priests an excuse to travel when they have no other pressing matters. If a holy site needs maintenance or repair, the priest takes care of what is needed or hires a skilled person to do it.

Elder priests whose bodies can no longer handle physical travel tend to use magic to visit the minds of others in distant locations (using the dream spell) or even travel to distant planes (using the astral projection spell). Some use herbal or alchemical substances to enter a dreamlike state to explore higher levels of consciousness or commune with dream entities. A few such “Wakeless Ones” are so strong-willed that they have remained asleep and dreaming for years-they don’t even wake to eat or drink, and are instead sustained by faith, will, and dream-food. It is considered a noble end for a Desnan to die in her sleep, as it sets the sleeper on the first step of the final spiritual journey to the goddess.

Followers of the Song of the Spheres consider sleep a form of prayer, and traveling Desnans volunteer only for the first or last watch of the night so as to be able to sleep uninterrupted. If a priest believes he won’t get as much sleep as he likes that night (for example, if his comrades plan a midnight battle), he tries to fit a nap or two into his schedule for the day rather than risking being short on sleep. Divine priests prepare their spells during morning prayers, while Desna’s bard-priests generally prepare spells after those prayers.

Desna shares a mutual loathing with night hags and other creatures that prey on sleepers, so her priests oppose them, as well as spellcasters who use nightmare – priests go so far as to destroy spellbooks and magic items that use the spell. Because of Desna’s feud with Lamashtu, she charges her priests with protecting the common folk from dangerous beasts (especially from intelligent beast-like creatures such as worgs), although she holds no hatred for wary predators that avoid mankind.

Desna’s priests have a tradition of exploring distant places and leaving marks indicating someone of the faith has been there. This “found-mark” might be as simple as the goddess’s symbol scratched on a flat rock or tree trunk, as elaborate as a small shrine, or anything in between. Often, explorers leaves personal glyphs or notes indicating who they are; in this way, they gain fame in the church, and someone who has marked many sites in this way is called a Founder-a title that confers no formal powers but garners high esteem among the faithful. Although Desnans constantly seek to make new discoveries, some particularly remote or hard-to-reach locales-such as mountaintops, islands, or the tops of mined buildings-have become pilgrimage sites in their own right, eventually bearing the mark of the original Founder surrounded by dozens of personal runes or butterfly symbols left by those who have followed in his or her path.

ADVENTURERS

Those who follow Desna follow their dreams. They accept and cherish the world’s surprises, but sometimes see the world not as it is, but as it could be. Their most cherished desire is to accumulate experiences, to find out what existence has to offer, and to expand their souls’ understanding of the myriad delights of the cosmos. Desna’s faithful are accustomed to making decisions quickly (though not rashly!), because they never know when opportunities might arise again. They express themselves freely, whether through voice, dance, music, or art, regardless of whether they’re any good at it.

Desnans don’t pick fights, and would rather leave than get involved in one-but if there’s no choice, or if innocents might be harmed by their departure, they hit hard and fast to end the battle quickly. Many members of the Desnan faith find themselves drawn to the Pathfinder Society, with its limitless potential for travel and adventure.

CLOTHING

Desna’s priesthood has no regalia or vestments beyond bright colors, often adorned with butterfly-wing patterns, and their goddess’s holy symbol. Worshipers typically have little problem recognizing each other, as they often work Desna’s symbol into jewelry, clothing, or tattoos, or bear her holy weapon, the star knife.

HOLY TEXTS

The faithful of Desna care little for heavy tomes of holy doctrine or arguments over the most righteous path. They prefer their religion concise, entertaining to read, and easy to carry.

The Eight Scrolls: These eight short scrolls contain all the official doctrine of the church, summarizing Desna’s early days as a goddess, her interactions with other deities, her discovery of her powers, and the fixing of the stars in the night sky. The fifth scroll contains the church’s words regarding the behavior of mortals, which sparks many friendly debates among the faithful. Desna is a goddess of inherent contradictions; fortunately, her loosely organized church accepts all plausible interpretations of the scrolls that do not radically deviate from standard church teachings. The scrolls are short enough that they all fit within two scroll cases (one if the writer’s handwriting is particularly fine).

Shrine Writings: Wayside shrines to Desna are typically covered in graffiti, most inscribed by traveling followers of the goddess. It is said that the goddess herself grants inspiration at such places, and that those who add drawings, scribbled verses, or life observations upon the shrine are granted safe travels and good luck.

HOLIDAYS

Given their lack of unified structure and penchant for spontaneous celebrations, the church of Desna has few formal holidays. Two major festivals stand out from the dozens of minor occasions and celestial events.

Ritual of Stardust: This celebration takes place on the summer and winter solstices, bracketing the shortest and longest nights of the year (and thus the best day to travel and the longest night to view Desna’s stars). A great feast starts at dusk with several large bonfires throwing sparks into the darkening sky. When dusk turns fully to night, the faithful sing until the fires burn down to glowing embers, then throw handfuls of sand laced with star gems (star rubies, star sapphires, or rose quartz) on the coals or into the air downwind of the festival. Pledges of friendship and journeys follow the stardust ritual, with the winking speckles of sand mirroring the stars in the sky and representing Desna bearing witness to the words. Some cultures include prayers for good harvests or mild winters, depending on the season.

Swallowtail Release: Legends tell of a portion ofDesna’s spirit plummeting from the heavens after a great battle with Lamashtu. A blind orphan nursed Desna’s avatar back to health, and to thank the child, the goddess transformed her into an immortal butterfly. In this form, the child could forever fly around the world, seeing its wonders. In honor of this event, the church raises swallowtail butterflies, releasing them from a netted wagon on the first day of autumn in front of a crowd of the faithful. These “children of Desna” fill the air for the rest of the day’s singing, feasting, and storytelling. Desna’s followers believe it is good luck for a butterfly to rest on them during the festivities. Larger temples sometimes have enclosed gardens where they raise the caterpillars for eventual release on the holiday; smaller temples or those in climates that won’t support butterflies might release dry leaves or corn husk fragments painted to look like butterflies.

APHORISMS

Desna’s followers collect stories, phrases, and habits from many parts of the world. A few have become common among the faithful across the Inner Sea region.

Be Ready for Challenges and Unexpected Friends: Worshipers should train in combat or magic so they can overcome adverse situations in their travels. They should be especially vigilant for agents of the Old Cults and harmful creatures from the Dark Tapestry, but should welcome friendly travelers from far places and distant stars.

Feet Are for Walking: Desna teaches that it’s better to wander and explore than to stay home and grow stale in thought and habit. Those who can’t wander in the flesh may still explore through their dreams and through the stories of others.

Follow a Hunch, but Bear the Consequences: If faced with a sudden problem, worshipers should be guided by intuition and emotions if reason doesn’t provide an obvious answer. If this leads to something harmful, they are responsible for repairing the harm that is done.

Learn from What Is Different: Desna’s followers should accept others who espouse friendship, regardless of race or religion. They learn redemption and acceptance from Sarenrae, appreciation of beauty from Shelyn, bravery from Cayden Cailean, passion from Calistria, magic from Nethys, combat from Gorum, nature from Gozreh, and more. Ignoring the teachings of other religions is ignoring the chance to learn.

RELATIONS WITH OTHER RELIGIONS

While friendly toward most other deities, Desna is ultimately a lone wanderer who remains aloof, and her sometimes-tragic history has left her cautious about leaving herself vulnerable to others. She is aware that some find her remoteness enticing, however, and she coyly encourages even godly paramours to explore and discover new things while trying to court her. Recently, Cayden Cailean has made attempts to woo Desna, a flirtation she finds endearing.

Her detachment has not prevented her from acquiring enemies, most from long-standing feuds or old grudges. Her biggest enemies are Ghlaunder and Lamashtu-the former because she accidentally released him from his cocoon and thus set his evil loose into the multiverse, and the latter because she murdered Desna’s mentor, Curchanus. Desna also battles Zon-Kuthon, for she wants the night to be a time of wonder rather than of fear and oppression, and Rovagug, who contests her for the void of space. The goddess also watches for signs of numerous forgotten and departed deities from ages long past, guarding against their unlikely but ever-possible return.

Desna’s only true sources of comfort among the deities are Sarenrae, who tends the wounds she receives in battling the evils of the night, and Shelyn, who reinvigorates her spirits and creates new wonders to be explored.

Desna’s followers don’t spend much time worrying about anyone else’s faith, although they’re happy to talk about their own if asked. They’re not averse to paying their respects at
shrines or temples to most other good-aligned gods, or welcoming members of other faiths with which Desna is friendly into the safety of their temples or homes when those guests are threatened or in need. As long as others respect their ways, they’ll return such respect; the road to truth passes through different landscapes for everyone, and a Desnan would never interrupt someone else’s journey unless that person were in mortal peril.

Desna’s footloose dreamers are polite but cautious-some might say aloof-toward followers of deities who encourage their faithful to settle down, such as Abadar’s congregations and worshipers of Erastil; they are protective of their right to wander, and don’t take kindly to attempts to tie them to one place. Though members of other faiths might see Desnans as flighty or disapprove of their amusement at religious practices they consider stodgy, Desna’s faithful can be just as implacable as the adherents of any other good-aligned faith when it comes to opposing evil. They are especially dedicated to guarding against the return of ancient, evil gods, and to rooting out cults of Ghlaunder and Lamashtu.

REALM

Desna’s domain is shrouded in mystery. While most clergy agree that she makes her home in Cynosure, Golarion’s pole star, details beyond that begin to drift significantly according to personal interpretation. Is her palace, the fabled Sevenfold Cynosure, actually on the Material Plane, or is the star merely the gateway to a pocket dimension of her own devising? If it is in the star, is it a place of celestial fire or a garden of starry delights where the deceased faithful can dabble their feet in moonlit pools? Does the goddess actually reside there, or does she constantly wander the spaces between the stars and those unknown reaches from whence she first came? And given that she also maintains a small floating castle on Elysium, how many other “homes” does the goddess keep? As with many questions related to Lady Luck, the goddess’s answer is merely a wink and a smile, if she deigns to answer at all.

PLANAR ALLIES

In addition to her servitor races, the thyrlien (see page 285) and the lyrakien (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 38), the following unique outsiders serve the goddess of dreams, and willingly answer only to planar ally and similar spells cast by her worshipers.

Night Monarch: This enormous moth or butterfly serves as Desna’s herald, and rises to protect Desna’s faithful and combat her enemies in times of great need. Surprisingly stealthy despite its size, the Night Monarch soars through the sky in near silence. Spotting the Night Monarch is considered a sign of good luck and the blessing of Desna. Followers of Desna who spot the Night Monarch sometimes go so far as to set up shrines to the goddess marking the event. If destroyed, the Night Monarch reappears later in full health, but Desna’s mortal worshipers consider attacking the creature blasphemy and go to great lengths to avenge the creature’s temporary death. For more information, see page 284.

Nightspear (unique avoral): This fierce avoral (Bestiary 2 16) has jet-black feathers with white spots on the tips, and his eyes are a bright silver that becomes dull and opaque when he’s hunting or hiding. He is especially proud of his ability to pull up out of a full plummet with only inches to spare. He has an excellent singing voice and often belts out heroic songs ofhis own composing mid-battle.

The Prince of the Night Sky (unique djinni): This arrogant djinni once served Gozreh, but joined Desna when he found her attitude more to his liking. He appears as a djinni made of dense white smoke or inky black darkness dotted with bright stars (alternating between the two at whim). In either form, he has a long black beard, which he keeps meticulously combed. For payment, he prefers jewelry and items that summon air elementals.

Sorrowbrand (unique lillend): This dramatic lillend is a composer and author. Her scales are a silvery black, and she wears dozens of black silk ribbons in her hair. While she enjoys helping mortals, she constantly complains that it takes time away from her study and writing. She prefers payment in the form of bardic scrolls or long-lost songs.

Desna

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