It's exactly like my dream, Karilea thought as she stepped out of the heat of the desert and into the cool, moist shadows of the cave. Light pierced only a few feet in and down the worn stone steps. Darkness, full of secrets and safety, lay beyond that tiny encroachment from the outside. She stood there, taking in the scent of wet stone, the protective veil of black, the sense of being on the cusp of something fantastic. Something that would alter her life, finally giving her the purpose she had sought for so long.
With great solemnity, Karilea followed the steps downward, leaving behind the light of day. She pulled the darkness around her like a cloak, feeling the touch of something greater than herself as she went. She stopped at the foot of the stairs and found herself in a cavern smaller than her own living room, lit in silver by the light of the full moon streaming through a crescent-shaped crack in the ceiling. Just like in her dream.
'I am here, Great Fena,' Karilea said. She felt the air swirl around her in response, felt something akin to fingertips brush gently across her cheek.
Just like in her dream, Karilea recited the sacred words:
'To the Moon were you bound and by the Moon shall you be set free. From blood did you come and with blood shall you return. Rebuked by death, you rebuke death with life. Mother! Daughter! Wise Elder! Cut down by the Sword! Restored by the Chalice! Bound by stone, now released by water.
'I release you, Fena, from your Lunar prison. I release you, Fena, from your bloody past. I release you, Fena, from your sworn vengeance.
'Be free, Fena, and be troubled no longer!'
Kneeling upon the rock, Karilea slashed her forearm with a long knife of green malachite. Putting down the knife, she caught the blood in a chalice of beaten silver. She tipped the chalice upon the cavern floor, directly in the path of the moonlight, spattering blood upon the rock as she shook the cup. Light from the moon flashed into sudden, sharp brilliance. A tremor ran through the cavern walls.
Weakness touched Karilea. She wrapped cloth about her wound, tying it closed in an awkward, one-handed knot.
From the edge of shadow, just beyond the dagger of moonlight, a figure stumbled into view, pitching forward onto the floor.
It has worked, thought Karilea. Tears sprang to her eyes and relief filled her soul.
'Why do you call me forth, mortal?' the figure on the floor asked. 'Know ye not who I am? What I do?'
Karilea smiled and reached out with her uninjured hand, clasping that of the woman before her. 'Who you used to be, you mean. You are Vengeful Fena no longer. Your tormentors have long been wiped from the land and your followers are no more the meek wives and children of yore who had no recourse but to call upon you to exact their revenge. Do you not recall your capture and imprisonment?'
'I... I do not.'
'When you wiped the land of the Get of Shetta and exacted revenge, the bloodlust would not leave you. The very women who called you forth were forced to bind you. Your name has been all but forgotten for centuries. Only a few of us have kept the memory of you alive.'
'And why do you bring me forth now,' Fena asked.
'Because we have become lost, Great Fena,' Karilea said. 'We are safe but we have forgotten ourselves. We must remember all the old ways, the old rites and rituals and sage advice. Very few are those of us who remember you, but no one still alive remembers much of the old ways. You are our bridge to the past. You are our salvation.'
The Cult of Fena
In the far distant past a great atrocity was committed by the Get of Shetta, the fanatical soldiers of the Shetta theocracy. These butchers spread from Shetta into the neighboring lands, killing and raping in the name of their god. In their eyes, any who were not strict followers of Shetta were worse than animals and not fit to live. To stop them, a group of witches called forth the vengeful demon Fena and set her loose upon this invading army.
Smoke poured in from an adjacent room, carrying with it the comforting aroma of burning wood and the horrifying stench of burning flesh. Screams abounded, spreading before the clopping of horse hooves through the streets and the sound of mail as soldiers marched.
Soldiers guarded the door, their faces grim as they worked to hold the barricade against the assault while wishing they could be outside fighting off the invading Shetta army.
Within the room twelve women stood without a circle etched into the marble floor. They chanted the sacred words and held aloft the sacred incense. In the middle was a thirteenth woman, her eyes bleeding terror and belying the brave set of her jaw.
'You must hurry,' one of the guards said. 'We can't hold these doors closed much longer!'
'You won't need to,' responded the High Pristess. 'We need but a few minutes more.
'Now, Ulra. It is time.' The High Priestess looked grim, hopeful, and full of sadness all at once. She handed a malachite knife to the woman within the circle.
'Aktagarti bless you,' she said.
'No, it is too late for Aktagarti,' the woman said. 'Now it is time for Fena.'
With that she used the knife to slit her own throat. Blood poured freely upon the floor. The chanting increased.
'Hear our pleas, great Fena!' The High Priestess said. 'Hear us and avenge us! Your daughters need you!'
The woman swayed on her feet, the weakness of bloodloss setting in. At once she fell, her blond tresses soaking up the thick red of her own blood.'
'It is done!' said the High Priestess.
'It is done!' said the others in unison.
The spirit of Fena overtook the form of the dead woman on the floor. The dainty form of the sacrifice arose as though picked up by a puppeteer's strings. Her limbs lengthened, thickened. The red blood soaked into her hair until it became something akin to blackened coal lit within by deep crimson flame.
Fingernails grew into claws. Teeth grew into fangs. Pale, bloodless skin turned to hardened brass. Eyes became cold blue sapphires. A third eye of opal opened upon her forehead.
The simple linen tunic ripped apart, and another formed of human skin sewn together with tendon took its place. In one hand appeared a glaive topped with a bone blade. In the other a swirling green flame came to life.
'I am here, my daughters,' Fena said with a voice like that of a raven. 'Who hunts you?'
For years Fena and her warrior women fought against the Get of Shetta. Fena granted power to her own followers. She also lost herself in the blood and the fighting. When the Get were finally pushed back to their very homes and the leaders of Shetta were left shattered and broken, she began to turn her rage elsewhere. Innocent men were slaughtered in the name of vengeance. Fena's priestesses feared for what they had unleashed upon the world.
Gratta, Chief Warrior to the High Priestess, topped the hill and looked down at a village in flames. No cries issued below. There was only the crackle of and hiss as wood burned. From below she saw the unmistakable form of Fena walk from the inferno and head up the hill.
Out of breath from chasing Fena, Gratta could only stare in horror at the carnage below.
'It is one less birthing ground for tyranny,' Fena said as she walked up to Gratta.
'They were innocents,' Gratta said.
'They supplied the Get with rations.'
'The Get are no more,' Gratta countered. 'And they did not willingly supply the Get with food. It was taken from them.'
Fena shrugged and began to walk off. 'Come, there are more such places which need cleansing,' she said over her shoulder.
'Priestess, we must do this,' Gratta said. 'She will not stop. I don't think she understands what it means to stop.'
'I suppose I knew this was coming. But how can we turn on the very being who saved us from certain destruction? Without her, Shetta would rule half the world by now.'
'I understand your concerns, but there is no way to get through to her, to reason with her. She knows only vengeance and blood. She does not know peace. She cannot know peace.'
Turning upon their savior, the priestesses of Fena bound her.
Ten of the original twelve priestesses performed the binding. Two had been slain in the fighting and none of the lower initiates were up to the task.
The ritual itself was performed in a cave under the light of a full moon, similar to the one required to free her in Karilea's time. They used a mirror of pure silver, set in a base of bloodstone. By tricking Fena into looking at the moon in the mirror while the rest chanted the sacred words out of sight, the High Priestess bound the demon in the very walls of the cave with chains made of silver, moonlight, and blood. In mercifulness, the High Priestess caused a slumber to fall upon Fena so that she would not spend an eternity trapped awake and in solitude.
The rites of Fena's release were passed down to the generations that came after, yet none wished to wake the demon goddess of blood and destruction. Eventually, the descendants began to doubt the very existence of Fena. The rituals were in danger of being forgotten.
Until Karilea. Though living in the modern world, once Karilea learned of her legacy she became infatuated with the very idea of Fena. She attempted the ritual of release several times but without success. Something was missing. She persevered, however, and eventually the dreams began. The priestesses of old came to her and bestowed upon her the power that had, for the most part, gone out of the world: the raw power that is required for the working of any great magic. Without it, all other rituals were meaningless words and motions. They also taught her to modify the releasing ritual, binding Fena from violence and preventing her from resuming her earlier carnage.
With the newly released Fena, Karilea seeks to bring the old ways back to the world, one woman at a time. She keeps the Cult of Fena a secret, only slowly bringing in new followers and swearing them all to absolute silence on the subject of Fena.
Fena's origins are lost to history. Even the priestesses of old were unaware that the powerful demon they summoned had begun life as a simple human girl, an acolyte of Aktagarti during the Turathian hegemony. At that time she had devoted herself, body and soul, to Aktagarti. She lived and breathed his word, taking up residence in his largest temple with dreams of priestesshood and advancing the glory of her god.
Her devotion to Aktagarti did not go unnoticed. She became a favorite of the high priest and priestess. She advanced quickly as an acolyte and stood ready to advance in the hierarchy of the temple.
At the same time, one of the greater Turathian nobles made a play for the throne, launching a coup and taking over the capital city of Turath. As the god Jenrath was the main god of his household, he attempted to gain supremacy by wiping out the rival god Aktagarti's temples. He ordered the wholesale slaughter of every priest, priestess, acolyte, and any others he deemed a symbol of Aktagarti's power.
Fena survived the attack, though just barely. Covered in the blood and gore of the bodies she had hid under, weakened from wounds and hunger, she made her way in the night in search of other faithful in the city. There she stayed until well enough to exact her revenge. She left the city, seeking out the potent magics which would transform her from a mere weakling human into a powerful demon.
The trek was not easy and she faced down many a challenge on that long road. In the end, and with the help of others, she consumed the liver of a lesser demon while a warlock recited words of transformation. Fena was reborn a terrifying demon.
With her new found power she walked straight into the palace of the usurper, flinging aside any who attempted to block her path, and ripped out his throat. She watched, a rictus grin upon her face as he gurgled and drowned on his own blood. Afterward, no longer human and unable to fit back into her old life, she wandered off into the wastes to live in solitude. Her mortal existence was forgotten.
In time she lost her connection with the mortal world and passed on to the realm of demons.
Appearance and Powers
As a mortal, Fena was less than remarkable in appearance. Of less than average height, with mousy brown hair and plain features, it was purely her devotion and strong spirit which brought her to the attention of the High Priest and Priestess.
As a demon, Fena could never be mistaken for human. Nine feet tall, with skin of brass and hair of shadow and flame, two eyes of sapphire with a third of opal, sporting long claws and fangs, she struck terror in her enemies. She had tremendous magical power: in combat she could throw balls of glowing green flame to melt her enemies, her spells could transform men into skittering rats, and her touch would bestow strength and protection upon her allies. Great was the might and power of the demon goddess. Her bone-bladed glaive could rip through bone and armor as though through paper. Her tunic of human skin made caused pestilence in any unfortunate enough to touch it.
The demon Fena, while physically very tough, is not completely immune to injury, though it would take much to wound her in that form. She is also able to shrug off most magical attacks. Only the combination of light from a full moon, pure silver, and blood (the elements used in the binding) could weaken her enough to make her susceptible to attack.
Her physical demonic aspects were removed in the ritual which Karilea performed, returning her to her pre-demon form. The priestesses, as spirits in that other world, had since learned of Fena's true history and were thus able to create the modified ritual of return. But despite the loss of her demonic powers, Fena still has the spiritual magic taught to her as a priestess of Aktagarti.
Using Fena in a Campaign
There are a few different ways this can happen. In a stock fantasy campaign, the war between Fena and the Get of Shetta could play a prominent role. The PCs could be caught up in the war, fighting against the Get or helping to detain Fena.
In a modern fantasy campaign, Fena makes sense if magic is rare, hidden, or just beginning to show up in the world after a long lapse (a la Shadowrun.) Fena spent many years as a demon and is now being worshiped as a goddess; there is no telling what direction her instruction may take. Like Karilea, the women drawn to follow Fena are all disenfranchised with the pointless nature of the modern world and are willing to devote themselves to a greater power who can give them purpose.
If the ritual that Karilea performed did in fact lift the vengeance aspect of Fena it is possible that she will go back to being a devotee of Aktagarti. She will be able to instruct the modern world as to how the god was worshipped thousands of years ago. Also, because of her contact with the priestesses of various sects, she will be a fountain of knowledge about all sorts of practices, dogma, and rites.
It is also possible that while Fena's demonic aspects have been lifted, she is still angry at heart. She may seek to subtly lead Karilea and the faithful onto darker paths of vengeance. There are many wrongs to be righted in this world and a cult of worshippers would give Fena a great many opportunities to seek vengeance for those who cannot find it themselves.
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? Responses (12)-11
Very well written and original. Haven't got much else to say.
The Good: Like already said, well written, The idea of fallen angles sees a lot of use, but rarely do demons rise again, more needs to be done with that idea.
The Bad: A bit dry once the introduction is done. How did they bind Fena again? At what cost? Why is magic draining away/being forgotten? And which of those is it? Both are implied.
Also, in my opinion it seems odd that Karilea just randomly decided to free Fena again without some inciting event, but that could just be me. People do pick up odd obsessions and goals sometimes (especially where religion is involved).
Like stated in the article, it works well for a low magic, low fantasy world, or one just waking up again, but would need a major overhaul for a high fantasy campaign.
I tried to make this sub very focused on Fena, so while there are references to what goes on in the wider world, very little is explicitly said about it. Since I didn't have a particular setting in mind when I wrote this, I made the background details vague enough that they could be adapted to whatever the GM is using. As such, you are correct that many details are left out.
The binding of Fena could have been a good bit of narrative fluff to add. I'm sorry I didn't think of it.
A few ideas about the magic: It could be that magic waxes and wanes in this setting. Thus as it wanes and gets harder to use, its application becomes rare and fewer attempt to keep the traditions alive. Maybe Karilea was not the first to attempt to bring Fena back but, with magic waxing once again, was just the first to be able to tap into the power to do so.
Karilea's desire to free Fena was not random. I think it is common for some people to look to the distant past and seek a connection with it or to try to bring some of it into the present, especially when they feel lost or that life provides little spiritual meaning. Look at all of the various real world neopagan traditions that are around today.
Fena from the past would fit right into a high fantasy campaign but the modern version was designed specifically for a setting with little magic (or at least a world where magic is only beginning to come back.)
Thanks for the thought provoking feedback!
Interesting read, and I like the idea presented, but there are quite a few areas that are vague or left blank, some of which is intentional.
As Darkstand said, I would like to know more about the binding, and how and why such power as Fena's was left to fade and be forgotten. Some other questions revolve around Fena as a demon, I have no idea what she looks like, what if any mannerisms she has. What is her portfolio, does she have any elemental aspects, weaknesses, strengths?
I would like to see a triptych style progression, Fena the mortal, Fena the vengeful demon, and Fena the older and now dangerously unknown goddess. What is her appearance and how has it changed? What were her powers and how have they changed?
I like the idea, especially since one religions angels could be another's demons. Scras's comments best echo my thoughts here.
Good questions, all. Based on all the feedback here, I'm working on an update.
Update: A lot more detail has been added.
The additions and editing have made this a much better submission. Good job, and here is a 1.5 point bump in vote.
Thank you for taking the time to reread this.
The additions are good. The voluntary sacrifice in particular is a nice touch..
Whether she is truly 'free' is another good question, as is her power now, but both of those are fine as open questions for the GM to answer.
Glad you liked the updates.
A very interesting progression. I like the duality here, and the idea of binding evil to do good. Excellent work.