The Stranger

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The Stranger

Goddess of death, secrets, and vengeance. Illumitas’ Shard of Peace
Dominion:The path of Necromancy
Precepts:Keep secrets sacred; embrace the peace of ending; serve the dead who can no longer serve themselves.

The Keeper of Secrets, Lady Dusk, The Late Woman, Crows, or simply Death, the Stranger is the last entity mortals meet on their life’s journey. A quiet goddess, the Stranger is the deity responsible for the Empyrean. At the moment of death, she collects those freed from life and worthy of her embrace and carries them to this paradise, this Well of Souls. There, they enter new mysteries and beauty unknown to all mortality. Those who are not worthy are not collected and helpless, they eternally roam. Several philosophers, having noted trends in history, suspect that the Stranger sometimes surrenders worthy souls to the Mother so that they may be reborn into the world for some divine purpose.

The Stranger did not exist within Illumitas until he was torn apart at the hands of the Dark Three. When his blood pooled into his shadow, his shadow awoke cognizant of the notion of coda, and became the Stranger. She arose, and sided with her brothers and sisters in war against the Three.

Coda, the Stranger’s way, conceptualizes death as a peaceful ending to the sufferings of life. Death is the time for the faithful to muse over the lessons learned in life, free of the politics, passions, or divisions that drive conflict. If these passions persist beyond death, these troubled dead must be eased with justice. In these ways, peace is served.

While her crows carry these souls, the goddess speaks with each one. They speak freely to her, though there is no sorcery compelling them to do so. In these conversations, she learns much about the races of Novitas. She is sworn to keep their secrets, and her natural quiet demeanor is suspected to be a result of her reverie and nostalgia for all that has been created and lost. Sometimes these secrets are so tragic, so horrific, that her quiet contemplation flares to sudden action, and soon thereafter there are many new souls freed from life. Her secrets are sacred and private. Often times, the Soldier or the Scholar will ply her with reasons and rationales, trying to mine her for information that they ‘need.’ The others, on occasion, try as well, all save the Knight, who alone respects her sacred oaths. For this reason, the Knight is the only member of the Sept that does not contend or struggle with the Stranger in one fashion or another.

The Stranger is often portrayed as feminine, though sometimes she is also genderless. Most artists envision her as slender and hidden, though particular crafters may simply hide her face with shadow, the hood of a cloak, or even her own hands as if weeping. Her temples are usually built in hospices or adjacent to crypts and grave sites, and her worshippers are often anonymous and unknown until they are unmasked. These places of reverence are marked by veils, curtains, and screens of silk. They are less a meeting hall, than places for quiet contemplation and funerary rites. Often, the smell of incense lingers on those that have visited these places.

Her formal worshippers are often regarded with a mild sense of dismay or discomfort by the populations they serve. Often, these veiled priests and priestesses are responsible for death rites, burial rituals, and counseling the grieving. As their patron goddess exemplifies, these Mutes are sworn to keep all secrets uttered by the grieving and about the dead. They merely listen and in doing so, soak up the pain of those the deceased had left behind. Additionally, this cult tends to the elderly and infirm as they near their meeting with the Stranger. Again, the Mutes collect stories and secrets, in exchange for care and comfort in their dim temples. Some wonder what secrets these monks and nuns have at their disposal.

Aside from the formal clergy, the Stranger is worshipped by anyone with a secret to keep. Often times, she herself is a secret patron. While a King may publicly worship the Knight, for example, in secret he may venerate the Stranger in the hopes that his secrets will remain unknown. Faithful assassins may spend several long minutes after a murder to anoint their victims and compose their corpses so they may meet the Stranger with dignity, and thus please the Stranger, who will in turn keep the killer’s identity a secret. The Stranger holds no jealousy in her heart, for in the end everyone meets her alone. At times, she is appeased with incense and small sacrifices to keep her at bay. Merchants going on a long journey will bury lace in a new grave before undertaking their travels. Sailors will burn rose petals before stepping off the dock and boarding a ship. Diplomats will donate small sums of coin to the local graveside temple of the Stranger before undertaking dangerous assignments in foreign countries. Mothers-to-be might pay for a professional mourner for someone else’s funeral. Adventurers might contract with the Mutes for a portion of their loot in return for the Stranger’s favor while exploring a newly discovered ruin. It is rumored that the sentient Undead have secret elaborate blood rituals to rebuke her and keep their immortality intact. In all these cases, sacrifices and ceremonies exist more the keep her at bay than to invite her presence.

Prayers to the Stranger are often whispered, at night, while something of value is sacrificed to her. The whisper is the reverence for her secrets, and the loss of the treasured item is a little death that acknowledges her eternal presence throughout the world. Her supplication is rarely a public affair, save at funerals themselves. It is said that when one wonders about the sensation of falling off a bridge, or drowning peacefully, that this is the Stranger sending her quiet warning. This sensation is her only communication, until the end.

The central mystery of the Stranger’s cult is that a lifetime can only be judged when it is over. In the midst of a life, the individual is caught in their own river, and cannot see further than the bend ahead or the rapids behind. Mortality is often at odds with itself only because it cannot see the entirety of its own lives, how they integrate, and how one action can affect dozens of other lives. This creates conflict, and conflict is the ruin of life. However, when a soul is at the point where it can see this pattern, it is too late for anything to be done. This mystery is, however, natural. And it is this greater understanding that compels newly rescued souls to speak with the Stranger of what they see, and the part they played. Thus is mortal kind doomed to confusion, the Stranger to knowledge, and is why, of all the Sept, it is the Stranger that has the greatest understanding and sympathy for mortal beings.

All of which is why she fights so terribly against the Undead. These corrupted bodies may be empty of the souls she has harvested, but their keening sends ripples through the Empyrean Well of Souls. They may be individuals who, through careful planning and power, have eluded her embrace, thus denying her the rightful role to filter out the evil from the world and reward the righteous dead. Or they may be those who seek to keep their secrets as their own, eluding death in order to prevent the Stranger from hearing their final whispers and adding their mysteries to her tapestry of tales. As such, she claims dominion over the Path of Necromancy, so that the Undead may be undone, order re-established, and peace maintained.

The Stranger does not stand against any divine evil, but waits for that evil to come to her. To earn the ire of the Stranger is to try to cheat Death, or to reveal dangerous secrets recklessly. There is rarely any redemption from violating the Stranger’s order. Instead, the offending mortal is simply collected into her embrace, his secrets added to her own. The Stranger is incapable of forgiveness.

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