Alessa

Title The Lady in the Room The Unquenchable Fire
Portfolio Trickery Lust Revenge
Alignment Chaotic Neutral
Worshipers Varies
Worshiper Alignment CN, CE, N, CG
Domains Chaos, Charm, Knowledge, Luck, Trickery
Subdomains Azata, Curse, Deception, Lust, Memory, Thievery
Favored Weapon Whip
Symbol Three daggers
Allows creation or rising of undead: No
Favored Animal(s) Wasp
Sacred Colors Black, yellow

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 Alessa 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 Alessa 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.

Dogma

Alessa is the most widely worshiped elven goddess on Erin 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 Alessa'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, Alessa 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.

Alessa 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. Alessa 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, Alessa 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. Alessa 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 Alessa 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.

Alessa 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, Alessa's worshipers are also not afraid of depicting her in more scandalous attire or situations, and sexually explicit art featuring the goddess is common.

Alessa'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.

The Church

Though any individuals bearing grudges may pray for Alessa's favor until they have been satisfied, typical lifelong worshipers of Alessa 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 Alessa 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. Elven society, on the other hand, is by far the most accepting of her worship, as most elves see Alessa's independence from commitment as the only path of sanity for members of a race that lives centuries.

Alessa 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

Temples and Shrine

A typical Alessian 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 Alessa'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 Alessians. 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 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.

The practice of building shrines has never really caught on in Alessa's church. Life itself is a pilgrimage for Alessa, 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.

The use of positive events to culminate in eventual catastrophic failure to heighten the sting. Ceremonies honoring Alessa 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 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.

Taboos

The proscriptions of Alessa’s worship vary from temple to temple, and have more to do with the whims of individuals rather than any specific teachings. Unlike Gavet, she has little problem with the slavery of others, though she’d be happy to help those who seek vengeance and freedom of their own accord. The only taboo in this faith is being untrue to yourself.

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.

Alessa'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.

Alessa'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 Nemyth carefully watch Alessa'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.

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 Alessa'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. Alessa'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

Priests 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.

Holy text

Although Alessa'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 Alessian 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.

Holidays

Alessa'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.

Relation with other religions

Alessa'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,Alessa and Callie get along well, as erotic love leads to sex and common lust can turn into love, though Alessa believes Callie's insistence on love is a weakness. Alessa finds Zephyra distasteful but respects her lust for life.

She is intrigued by Nemyth and willing to work with him, though he is never quite sure if he is somehow being manipulated. She respects Cerie, but thinks she's a little too hung up on her failures and setbacks. Alessa and Gavet are on very friendly terms, and just how friendly is the subject of much speculation. Alessa'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, Alessa 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 Alessa 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 Gavet tend to get along well with Alessa's faithful, and Callite focused on the beauty of eroticism often find common interests with Alessa, who are ever attentive to the eroticism of beauty

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