After the chaos and death that was the legecy of the Old World, many new small nations and city states sprang up in it’s corpse-shadow. Many of these, long yoked to unpopular ethos were suddenly free to choose their own paths and found their own faiths. Some, such as Iacon claimed the divine right of mankind, other embraced stranger beliefs. The Yah J’nesst, the Sisterhood of the Divine Mother, were one such power. Located around the city-state of Tala Qloav, the Sisterhood rose quickly to power and enacted isolationist policies to ensure their own survival both as a species and as leaders.
Histories of Tala Qloav, attributed to Sister Janya Skie
Attire and Demeanor
The Yah J’nesst are a centuries old insular sect composed entirely of women. They have a large body of tradition that is predominated by the cyclical nature of the female body and the ability to reproduce. The female is to be worshipped, of that there is no question. What remains is that the sect considers the female body to be considered one of the inner mysteries of the faith. As such, women in Tala Qloav were long drapes that leave only their hands and eyes exposed.
Ranking clergy of the sect are demarcated by their drapes which are always a violent shade of red trimmed in gold. In some countries and traditions, red is the color of violence and death, but in Tala it is most strongly associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle and the formenting of life, rather than it’s end. Initiates and acolytes of the sect favor similar drapes of various shades of red, purple, and pinks. Common women not affiliated with the sect are required by law to wear a similar style drape, but are forbidden from wearing the color red. Browns and blacks are among the most common colors, while wealthy women will favor whites, yellows, and other vibrant colors.
A City of Weavers
Given the demand for drapes, it is little wonder that Tala Qloav is known for it’s textiles, both in prodigious output, and in quality. Most of the larger textile mills are owned entirely by the Yah J’nesst, and those that are not pay tithes to the sect for the privelage of operatinng within their domain.
As such, what arable land around Tala that isnt directly involved in sustenance level agriculture is used for growing flax for linen or pasture land for the plentitude of sheep required for producing wool.
Law and Punishment
The letter of the law in Tala Qloav is almost draconian in it’s expanse and execution. Most crimes carry either the sentance of death, or ritual mutilation and exile. Murderers, rapists and major thieves can expect a quick death usually applied via public humiliation and cutting of the femoral artery. Minor infractions, usually petty theft and other non-violent crimes can expect an eye-for-an-eye mutilation and exile upon pain of death.
The laws are different for women however. Since the female is divine, punishment is carried out exclusively by the Yah J’nesst. Minor crimes are dealt with by temporary ostracism and censorship. Serious crimes such as murder and disrupting civil order also carry the death sentence for women, but since blood is sacred, the executee is either strangled, poisoned, or pressed to death under heavy stones. Strangulation and poison are reserved for regular crimes, while being crushed under heavy objects is for women who attempt to throw off the laws, traditions, customs or decrees of the Yah J’nesst.
The bulk of members of the Yah J’nesst are initiates of no real rank or standing authority. Most of these members live in cloisters that are centered around protecting the female mystery and operating looms to produce large amounts of cloth. Initiates are treated as honored guests by the public and are adressed as ‘Yah’ and their given name.
The Rank of Derfih is carried by the middle ranks of members, and most have assorted honorifics attached to them. There are dozens of Mother Derfihs, Derfih Superior, Derfih Prelate and so on. These titles tend to be unique to each of the Derfihs who hold them, and always relate to something that they accomplished as an initiate or before become a member of the clergy. Derfihs are given a greater deal of respect and latitude, as they have authoritative powers and can command easily a dozen initiates. They are addressed by either their honorific title such as Mother Derfih, or if unintroduced or in formal situations simply as ‘Yah J’nesst’.
The highest ranks of the clergy are known as the Kaladafis. There are rarely more than a dozen of the Kaladafi at any given time and individually they command the same powers that are reserved for the upper most levels of the nobility. With a word, a Kaladafi can condemn a man to death, bless a marriage, destroy a fortune, or turn a beggar into a wealthy man.
The highest member of the Yah J’nesst is the Obok Maelthra, who is colloqually known as either the High Mother or the Dragon, depending on the speaker. Roughly similar to the Pope, the Obok is the titular leader of the Yah J’nesst, and as such sets most of their agendas and basic policies. Also, the Obok is the only woman allowed into the Heart of Mysteries, the very center of the Yah J’nesst’s power and faith. The Obok is revered as the incarnation of all that is wise and female and is regarded as a god in mortal flesh in Tala Qloav.
The Heart of Mysteries
There is a single temple of the Yah J’nesst as their order, while old, is still relatively small. Beyond the borders of Tala Qloav’s power, they hold little if any power and as such, few of the Yah ever leave the boundaries of the city-state. Their temple was once the palace of the Plenipotentate who ruled the province before the collapse of the old empire. It is now a collection of barracks to house the defenders of the faith, dormitories for the initiates, and a home for the leaders of the faith.
The Heart of Mysteries is the central most chamber of the palace and almost a thousand years ago, it was the personal treasurey of the plenipotentate. It now houses a sizable personal library, a variety of magical items, both weapons and wonders, and is the private sanctum of the Obok. The real mystery is that the Obok possesses a magical artifact of great power, a fifteen foot tall Stele that dominates the center of the room. This stele consumes magical power, or blood if need be, to create a powerful warding around the city. This stele and the priestesses who tended it during the Nightmare war served as the foundation of the Yah J’nesst, and the protection of the stele is as important as preserving their own power. There is a prophecy that the Yah J’nesst will fail when the stele is discovered and broken.
Duties and Powers
The Yah J’nesst have a central role in the social and cultural life of Tala Qloav. Without their magical prowess, and the martial skill of their attendants, the city would have long ago fallen to orcs, barbarians or the undead.
The Yah J’nesst preside over marriages, and anyone found living together ‘in sin’ without their blessing is tried for transgressions against the faith. The man is usually castrated, and the woman relocated to another part of the city. They also bless the births of children, hold naming rituals, and are often seen as ‘aunts’ who appear regularly through a child’s life. Those children who show magical aptitude are recruited at a young age to either join the clergy, or it’s defenders.
Funerals and handling of the dead are expressly forbidden for the Yah J’nesst, they are the embodiments of life and not death. While they will heal anyone they can, if they assess the injuries too serious, they will not approach the injured person for fear of contaminating themselves with oblivion.
The Yah J’nesst have a monopoly over clerical and divine magics in Tala Qloav, and as such, only women in the city wield divine powers. They powers are fairly standard, blessings, removal of curses and disease and healing injuries. Their control over this and very hidebound traditional stance leaves them as the sole source of healing, magical or otherwise in Tala, giving them great control over the general population.
The sword flashed, strike counter strike, deflection killing stroke. Over and over the motions were repeated. Each man dripped with sweat, their eyes steeled with concentration. Once fully trained, each would be the match of four trained soldiers, or afoot a match for a mounted noble in armor. Such devotion, such courage, the commoners could never learn the truth of their dedication.
The Defenders of the Yah J’nesst are reknowned warriors, artists with blades, blood their ink, flesh their canvas. each of these men showed magical aptitude as a youth and were taken into the clergy to be trained. The most important and greatest secret of their training is the application of the Harvent Nesist.
The Harvent Nesist is a magical rod that allows a female magic user to dominate a suseptible person. This domination allows for extensive alteration of the person’s psyche. The Yah J’nesst uses the rod to turn young boys into trained weapons who live only to serve their Yah masters and cut down whom they name as foes. Before becoming a full blooded Defender, each youth is allowed to impregnate a Yah initiate to pass on his magical aptitude. After this is done, the youth is ritually castrated and blooded as a full member of the Defenders. Very few outside of the Yah J’nesst know even a scrap of this information.
What is common knowledge is that each Defender has a certain Yah that he would unhesitatingly lay down his life for. This is usually the woman who bore his child, but this aspect is a secret. It is also known that the Defenders have an innate resistance to magic, and have swords that flash with magical power. The truth behind this is that the would-be magic user’s aptitude for magic has been sculpted to be channeled into two uses. The main use is that the warrior is protected by a magical invisible sheath of his own creation. This is the source of the Defender’s great invulnerability to arrows and injury. The second use is that the innate magic is channeled into their weapon to increase it’s power. Thus the Defender is able to deflect blows and use his own weapon to cut steel and stone alike. As Defenders become more skilled, their magical defence and magical sword abilities increase in power.
On a negative note, the Defenders, being magically conditioned, are suseptible to magical mind control and manipulation. This power has to cut through the magical defence first, but it is easier to penetrate their armor with a charm than with a ballista bolt.
Snowglobe Kingdom - Isolated as it is, Tala Qloav remains a largely untapped resource for relics and lore of the ancient world. The library of the Obok has spellbooks that have not seen the light of day in over a millenium, a treasure to anyone brave or stupid enough to try to claim them. Plenty of Fetch the Dingus opportunities.
Psycho-Amazon Brigade! - Tala is called upon to defend itself, and the appearance of the Yah Jynesst and their Defenders makes a heck of an impression. While elite soldiers are not unheard of, the passionless precision of the Defenders is a far cry from the norm. The sisters slinging holy fire and raising the injuried to throw back into the fight are also a large deviation from the norm. The PCs are contacted to explore Tala Qloav and find out what they can about the Yah Jynesst and return to tell the tale.