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The Church of Eilistraee was an organization composed of the followers of the goddess Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden.

Worshipers of Eilistraee mostly consisted of those drow who hoped to escape the danger and darkness of Underdark and Lolth's evil, taking back their place in the surface world and living in peace with all other races. However, in line with her ideals, Eilistraee would welcome and accept beings of all races who shared the desire of seeing all races living in harmony, without pointless discrimination or wars, and worked towards that goal.[8]

Dogma and BeliefsEdit

Eilistraee's TeachingsEdit

On helping others

Aid and protect all folks in need, of any race, weak and strong, kind or rude, promoting harmony and acceptance among all races. Lend your help to all those who fight for good whenever there are ways to do so. When not fighting evil, be always kind--even to those who show rudeness--and aid others in acts of kindness.

Strangers are your friends. Hungry travelers are to be fed and the homeless are to be given shelter--under your own roof if needed--. When traveling and while adventuring, feed, help and protect all those in need met along the way as a prayer and offering to the goddess. Patrol the lands about, especially in cold winters, so that all those who are lost, hurt, or bitten by the cold can be given appropriate cures and shelter.[9]

On promoting joy, arts and beauty

Bring happiness and merriment everywhere you go, lifting people's hearts with kindness, gaiety, songs, jests and revelry. Nurture and create beauty, promote and practice music and dance, learn new songs and dances and how to play, craft and repair musical instruments. Pass this learning on whenever possible and use it to bring joy to friends and strangers alike. Feasts should always be joyful events and food eaten with the accompaniment of music, save for sad occasions. Practice swordwork, learning new techniques with the blade.[10]

On Drow

Encourage drow to return to the surface world whenever and wherever there are ways to do so. Work to promote peace with other races, helping the drow to forge their own place in the world and become part of its rightful, nonevil inhabitants. Aid all dark elves who are in danger or in need of help. If they are in combat, the fighting must be ended as soon as possible, with as little bloodshed as possible. All drow met, when not working evil on others, are to be given the message of Eilistraee:

A rightful place awaits you in the Realms Above, in the Land of the Great Light. Come in peace, and live beneath the sun again, where trees and flowers grow.
  — The Message of Eilistraee[11]


On food

Learn how to best cook food and game, and gather new recipes and spices whenever there is the chance to do so. Try to feed yourself by your own gardening and hunting skills and assist hunters when possible. If food is aplenty, part of it is to be set aside and given to all those in need (especially outcasts and individuals of other races)--try to always carry some food for this purpose--. Give any remaining food to the priestesses of the Dark Maiden, as they will do the same and none shall go hungry.[12]

On conflict

Repay violence with swift violence, quickly removing dangers and threats, so that the fewest may be hurt. When fighting evil, the bodies of the fallen enemies are to be burned as an offering to the goddess, unless they happen to be edible and nonsentient and hungry people are near. When faithful, friends and allies fall in battle, priestesses of the Dark Maiden must comfort and soothe those who are mourning the loss, and provide a funeral song and burial.[13]

On possessions

Wealth should be used to buy food, swords, armor and musical instruments and to assist the work of the goddess. When helping others, take as price no more than a single tool or favor that can be used to serve the goddess' will.[14]

Eilistraee and her church detested slavery and actively fought it whenever possible.[15][16]Followers of the Dark Maiden were therefore forbidden from taking slaves, and prisoners of war (mostly Lolth-worshipping drow or untrusted individuals who had acquired too much knowledge and that were held for some time to make sure that such knowledge wouldn't be used against the followers of Eilistraee) were usually made work for food and shelter, but they weren't owned and couldn't be commanded by anyone (only supervisors assigned by the decision-makers among the Dark Dancer’s worshippers could give them orders, in selected cases).[17]

ActivitiesEdit

The Church of Eilistraee worked by putting their goddess' teachings in practice. Their main duty was to encourage the drow to return to the surface world, reaching to them whether they were fugitives, raiders or inhabitants of the Underdark. They showed to the drow that a different kind of life, far from Lolth, was possible, and assisted them in making this choice by giving them aid, food, acceptance and safe places to live.[18] Eilistraeeans performed missions underground, looking for those dark elves who were in need of their help and that could be brought on the surface (mostly slaves, commoners, fallen and hunted nobles or drow who were generally unsatisfied with the life that Lolth imposed them), bringing them the Message of Eilistraee[19]. Many of them carried tiny swords to give out to drow in the Underdark, that served as keys for safe passage to temples, or as identification token.[20] Some priestesses of the Dark Maiden lived in Lolth-dominated drow settlements, hiding from the clergy of the Spider Queen, even posing as her followers, in order to carry out the above-mentioned missions. These clerics and the Eilistraeen converts who had to hide their faith in order to let it spread and to survive under the thumb of Lolth were known as Secret Moondancers.[21]

As the Dark Maiden's teachings required, the clerics of Eilistraee actively worked to promote harmony between drow and other races, so that their people could be accepted and live in peace in their rightful place on the surface. This also involved the activities described in the section about the Dogma, like lending their own sword, helping hands, cures and food to assist people/settlements of any race in need, both to gain their acceptance (dispelling fears and prejudices about Eilistraee's goal) and because the priestesses of the Dark Maiden believed that it was the right thing to do.[22]

The Church of the Dark Dancer also acted through envoys, diplomats and emissaries living near (or sometimes within) other races' settlements.[23] An example was Karsel'lyn Lylyl-Lytherraias, former agent of Queen Amlaruil Moonflower and ambassador of the Eilistraeen Dark Elves on the elven island of Evermeet, who was trying to gain her people a place in the land that was supposed to be a safe haven for all elven people.[24] Seyll Auzkovyn and the followers of Eilistraee active near the elven and human community of Elventree also worked for a peaceful coexistence between their people and the other inhabitants of the area.[25]

The church of Eilistraee, especially near the area of the Promenade of the Dark Maiden, was known for their efforts against slavers of all kinds, actively fighting organizations dedicated to said practice (such as the Dragon's Hoard) and offering shelter to slaves.[26][27]

The faithful also had routine activities of food growing and gathering/hunting, preparation of cures and all that was needed to aid the drow to return to the surface, to aid and shelter travelers or any individual (who didn't represent a threat). They also gathered resources, weapons and armors (preferably magical) to use for their cause. Patrols in the areas near Eilistraeen communities were common (especially during cold winters) and had the purpose of finding any traveler (including fugitive drow or even wounded drow raiders) hurt, lost or hungry and to spot (and possibly neutralize) potential threats for the community and other settlements in the area.[28]

Beside their work towards the main goal of their goddess, the priestesses of the Dark Maiden were known to nurture beauty, music and song; to assist hunters; to help people of any race through acts of kindness and to spread joy and merriment (often through song and dance) whenever they saw ways to do so (and it was appropriate). They had also to be skilled in the art of playing of at least one of the Dark Maiden's favored instruments (horn, flute, or harp); to be adequate singers as well as fit, graceful dancers and to pass along and teach their skill. They gathered songs and musical knowledge constantly and acquired training in the use of the sword when they could. Clerics were allowed to go adventuring, as long as they kept following Eilistraee's teachings, aiding, feeding and defending the needy on the way. Among their duties was also to convert at least one stranger per moon to the worship of Eilistraee.[29]

Organization and CompositionEdit

CompositionEdit

Worshipers of Eilistraee could be beings of any race, but they were mostly drow. Non-drow followers of the goddess were mostly human, elves and especially half-elves.[30]

Likewise, clerics of Eilistraee could also be individuals of any race, but before the 1300s DR, they had to be female,[31] because--due to the goddess' nature--''One could not truly feel the Divine Dance of Eilistraee PROPERLY except as a female''. [32]. However, during the 1300s, the faith of Eilistraee started to open up to male priests: this was Eilistraee's choice and by 1373 DR all her clerics were aware of it (as the goddess was close to her clergy). Some female worshippers initially disliked this change, and priests could be met with distrust by some priestesses, who feared that they could merely be hunrgry for power: they would be wary of males, act with coldness and watch over their actions (at least until acceptance on a personal level was achieved, by working alongside them)[17]. Nonetheless, no priestess would reject males who wished to join the clergy, or act against them, refuse to aid and accept them, or renounce to Eilistraee's vision.[32] On the contrary, taken as a whole, all clergy of the Dark Maiden welcomed the fellowship of more and more followers of the goddess, no matter what gender[17].

However, in order to truly feel the Divine Dance of Eilistraee (and therefore become priests), males had to Dance the Changedance at least once, spending time as females (including everyday life, and not only rituals). Generally this wasn't perceived negatively, and with time the priests found themselves feeling the need to spend more and more time as female, because through that they could feel and cleave more fully to the nature of the Dark Maiden (and the willingness to remain shapechanged for long periods of time was seen and appreciated as a mark of dedication by the female clergy). These priests were few and usually secretive.[32]

After Eilistraee's return during the Sundering[33][34], males could become priests of the Dark Maiden without the need of undergoing the changedance.[35]

OrganizationEdit

Most Eilistraeen/Eilistraee-dominated communities formed around a temple or shrine of the goddess, and for this reason they were usually led by priestesses. However, any member could express concerns and ideas about any matters, and priestesses listened to them before making their decision. Outside of the Clergy, male and female worshippers usually had the same duties and roles: guardians, warriors, experts, artisans/artists, gathering food and other general works. Males were primarily involved in the decision-making through their expertise in given fields, but they rarely were priests (and therefore leaders. Even among male clergy, few managed to become leaders). They participated to almost all rituals and dances (like the Circle of Song and Dance and the Run), save for those, generally longer and more passionate, reserved to the clergy (which they could join too, if they danced the Changedance, for the reason explained above).[17][32] Differently from Lolthite societies, males were however generally treated with fairness and equality[36] (even if some female worshipers could have a different stance, likely because the mindset formed over centuries of Lolthite dogma and tradition was hard to overcome).[speculation]

The clergy of Eilistraee was different from most other religious organizations in that there wasn't any hierarchy or chain of command, as everyone stood on the same ground (even if most followers recognized Qilué Veladorn of The Seven Sisters as their guide and voice of the goddess).[37]

TitlesEdit

The clergy of Eilistraee were known under the general collective titles of Dark Ladies, although that could change from a community to another. Acolytes and aspirants to the clergy who wished to join a temple or who had not yet attained full priesthood were known as Maids. Many priestesses chose individual, specific titles which reflected their person during an Evensong (or Flamesong in the Promenade, see below), like Moon Dancer, Moon Singer, Dark Huntress, Argent Maid, Living Sword, Unsheathed Blade, Sword Smith, Bright Edge of Darkness, and Ghost of the Moonstruck Night.[38]

OrdersEdit

Sword Dancers

Specialized clerics of the Dark Maiden were known as Sword Dancers. They were excellent dancers and spellsingers, known to use an agile and acrobatic fencing style, resembling a dance. The sword dancers led the missions to find, encourage, assist and protect any drow looking to return to the surface (or that could be made to return) and join a different life. They were skilled diplomats, especially active near elven and other races' settlements, working to establish peace and cooperation between the drow and the surface dwellers.[39][40]

Darksong Knights

The Darksong Knights were an elite order of Eilistraeen priest(esse)s-knights, mostly active in the South, beneath the lands of ancient Ilythiir. Each members of this order was a battle-priest who chose to devote her life not only to the furthering of the Dark Maiden's goal, but also to the destruction of the yochlol and any demon or minion of Lolth.[41]

Silverhair Knights

The Silverhair Knights were an order of clerics of Eilistraee completely dedicated to the redemption and subsequent protection of drow followers of Lolth, Vhaeraun and other deities of the Dark Seldarine. They fully embraced the teaching of Eilistraee about showing mercy and compassion, and fought these dark elves only by non-lethal means, hoping to make them understand the error of their ways and choose a different life.[42]

Protectors of the Song

The Protectors of the Song were the temple guards of the Promenade of the Dark Maiden, the main center of worship of Eilistraee on Faerûn. Their main duty was to protect the temple and to patrol the area around the Pit of Ghaunadaur (a deep tunnel, north of Skullport and west of the Promenade, from where the Elder Eye attempted to enter Faerûn and cause havoc), to prevent the return of the slime god.[43]

Notable followers of EilistraeeEdit

RitualsEdit

Priestesses of Eilistraee usually prayed for their spell at the rising of the moon.[62]

The faith and worship of Eilistraee was not bound by hard rules, it was free form expression through dance and song and all that was needed to celebrate her was a moonlit glade (or some kind of light, if in places that can't be reached by moonlight). Faithfuls disrobed and started dancing, seeking their goddess' blessing.

Generally rituals were open to both females and males. However, around the time during the Silence of Lolth, it was possible to find covens (like one of the Velarswood covens, led by the priestess Uluyara) where males weren't allowed participate to the communal dances. In the above mentioned coven, the participating priestesses could physically assault males who dared to see the ritual in progress.[63]

The most important rituals are described below:

Circle of Song

Beside free form dancing and singing, the main form of ritual worship of Eilistraee was a hunt for food followed by a feast and a Circle of Song, in which the worshipers seated in a circle and danced by turns, leading a song. If possible, the ritual had to be celebrated in a wooden area and on moon-lit nights.[64]

Evensong/Flamesong

The Evensong was an intimate ritual that all followers of Eilistraee performed at the end of their day. It was a wordless ''message'' to their goddess (usually involving a personal dance and song) in which they let out all the emotions, experiences and reflections that they had gathered in the day, so that Eilistraee could listen to them. In the Promenade of Eilistraee this ritual took the particular form of the ''Flamesong'', the most important personal prayer for the Dark Ladies and Maids (priestesses and novices, respectively), in which they danced around a flame or a candle. They would sing freely for their goddess and dance following the rhythm of the music as it came, until the flame was existinguished. Priestesses usually tried to find an alcove or passage where they could be alone to make a Flame Song. While they did, the Promenade was filled with the eerily beautiful echoes of half a dozen or more of these solos at once, drifting down the passages.[65][66]

The Hunt/High Hunt

The Hunt consisted of tracking down and slaying/driving away a monster which represented a threat to the people living in the area. It was held whenever Eilistraee warned her followers of the presence of a peril/dangerous creature in the area (through the sound of her horn), in order to prevent it from hurting travelers or the inhabitants of nearby settlements. Hearing the Dark Maiden's hunting horn could also simply mean that someone nearby was in need of help.

The High Hunt was a night time ritual led by clerics of Eilistraee, in which the faithful hunted a monster or animal as an offering to the goddess. The tradition allowed the use of any kind of bladed weapon and armor, but the priestesses were required to wear as little as possible. It was usually held once per season and ended with a circle dance for the goddess if the quarry is slain (and a feast if the quarry was edible).[67]

The Last Dance

Those among the clerics of Eilistraee who did not die in battle were blessed by Eilistraee with the ritual of the Last Dance. In old age, Eilistraee's priests would hear the goddess sing to them by night, calling them to her. When the song felt right, they would simply start to dance under the moonlit sky, unclad and would never be seen again. Those who observed such dances said that the goddess came and singed to her follower, and that as the aged priest danced, she would gradually gain the strength and energy of youth, looking younger and younger. Her hair began to glow with the same radiance as the Dark Maiden's, and then she would slowly fade away as the dance goes on. In the end, only a silvery radiance could be seen and two voices -the goddess and her priest- could be heard, raised together in a melancholy, tender song.[68]

The Oath of the Sword

[69]

The Run

The Run was a ritual that followers of Eilistraee undertook at least once per year. All those who took part in the ritual used particular boiled leaves and berries to make their hair silvery (which usually led to sarcastic remarks from some drow of other faiths, who enjoyed saying that such a color was to indicate their foolishness, although drow who did not worship Eilistraee could also have silver hair) and those who were not drow used natural colors to paint their bodies black. After this preparation, they went on a travel, wandering on the surface world, relying on their music, kind intentions, and sword skills to not be hunted and killed as drow. The goal of the travel was for the followers of the Dark Maiden to go where they were strangers, reaching to elven and other races' communities to bring them food, joy (through music and dance), kindness and help of various kinds, not to preach their faith, but simply out of good heart and to show (together with their day-to-day activities) that drow could be rightful non-evil inhabitants of Faerûn. Of course, the faithful were encouraged to use this time to also learn (and/or pass on) new songs, music, recipes and sword techniques.[70]

The Sword Dance

The Sword Dance was a ritual held when a new sword was forged or acquired by a worshipper of Eilistraee, in order to ask her blessing on the blade. It was performed by planting the weapon in the ground (the point turned down) and dancing, drawing a drop of blood from each of the priestess' limbs, moving momentarily against the blade. If the ritual was successful, the sword would gleam with silvery light, and for three months it wouldn't rust and would be able to hit creatures that could only be wounded by magic.[71]

The Love-Binding

This ritual was the Eilistraeen version of a marriage, which happened when two lovers asked a priestess of Eilistraee to celebrate their union (the one below is the version of the ritual in the case when both lovers were worshippers of the Dark Maiden above other deities. In all other cases, the ritual would change and vary). The individuals to be wed (known as ''supplicants'') could be of any race and gender and the priestess couldn't refuse their request, if not for reasons of ''unworthiness'' (see below).

The ritual consisted of a phase of preparation and the celebration itself.

During the preparation, the priestess met with both supplicants separately, asking them to reveal her their true natures and then casting a spell over them so that Eilistraee could verify if truth was told. Then she would question both supplicants' love for their partner, their motives and willingness to serve Eilistraee ''in truth''.

Then the priestess would call Eilistraee's regard upon the couple and the goddess would make her attention known by making the priestess' eyes become glowing silver (she would go ''moon-eyed''). Such manifestation was followed by the supplicants and priestess disrobing, embracing (this wasn't of sexual nature) and dancing together, with the priestess leading and praying for Eilistraee's blessing. The goddess would answer to the prayer either by recognizing any deception that the priestess couldn't, or by happily blessing the union.

In the latter case, the ritual itself was allowed to begin, usually in places of worship or sacred to Eilistraee (especially where she had manifested), but any natural place lit by the Moon would serve.

When the moonlight touched the place of choice, the celebration of the love-binding would begin. Eventual audience (which had to consist of at least two witnesses, one a true worshipper of Eilistraee and the other not) would stand at the edges of the place, forming a ring around the supplicants if possible. Witnesses could wear anything, but -external conditions permitting- the priestess and supplicants had to cast off their clothes and wear an ankle-long overrobe, barefooted.

The ceremony would start with the priestess completely disrobing and making moonglow manifest around her, calling Eilistraee to “watch this binding, and make it firm” and any attendants to “witness this union of love”. The priestess would then offer both lovers a large ''loving cup'' full of black, sweet wine consecrated to Eilistraee and direct them to drink from it at the same time, facing each other and -after that- to kiss, while she would remove their robes, dressing them too in moonglow.

Finally, the priestess would bid the supplicants to join their hands and ask Eilistraee for Her blessing ''with all their hearts'', after which they would be declared ''bound before the Goddess'' and -with a celebratory clap- the festivities could begin. Those varied from case to case, for example due to cold weather, need for discrection due to potential danger/enemies and so on, however they always involved dance and song, while food and drink could be present or not, depending on the desire of the partecipants.

All the clergy of Eilistraee and other deities would form a circle around the place of the ceremony, facing outwards and weapons ready, as a protection of the lovers and celebrants during the dance. The only exception was the presiding priestess, who would intone a rhythmic, often simple, repetitive and haunting chant to Eilistraee (which would be echoed by other priestesses of the goddess and by other worshippers) and cast a spell that would keep the melody going on its own (even if it was customary for the priestesses to keen a harmony above it). 

The dance would then start, initially led by the priestess, who would lead the Bound (the married lovers) into it, with the celebrants watching them, as she left the couple to dance together and started praying to Eilistraee for her boon upon them. After that, all the participants would begin to dance, and the priestess to draw them to join the Bound, embracing and dancing by turns with all celebrants and conferring the same moonglow surrounding her body to all those touched by her. Beside that, the celebration didn't follow specific rules. The dancing could be anything comfortable for those who joined it, with agile and young dancers gyrating and wildly leaping around the less fit ones. The celebrants could choose to disrobe for the festivities or not, sometimes the Bound consumed the marriage in the middle of the dances, and sometimes the ceremony turned into a general orgy.

The celebration would usually continue until the moonglow faded from the body of the priestess, or until dawn. When it came to an end, the priestess would usually end the musical spell and lead everyone to the place arranged for them to spend the night in (an inn, or temple, private homes and so on), even if some preferred to leave the music echoing in the place until the spell faded (usually half a day later) and if, at times (mostly during summer), the night could be spent in the same place of the celebration. [72][73][74]

Equipment and MagicEdit

Ceremonial GarbEdit

Priestesses of Eilistraee generally wore their hair long (as a tribute to the goddess), but they had no specific ceremonial garb; instead, they were supposed to wear as little as possible during their official ceremonies.[75]

Dress and armorEdit

When relaxing, the priestesses preferred silver, diaphanous gowns, but for their work or when they had to fight they still used the most appropriate garb for the situation (like armor, preferably magical and of drow make, in battle, haprons for cooking and leather garb for hunting).[76]

Holy symbolsEdit

The holy symbols of the faith varied, and included a silver sword pendant the size of a hand, a silver bastard sword outlined against a silver moon with silvery filaments, and a nude long-haired female drow dancing with a silver sword in front of a full moon. These were often worn as a pin or hung around the neck by means of a slender silver or mithril chain.[77]

WeaponsEdit

In battle, the priestesses had to wield swords when possible, and bladed weapons were preferred to other instruments when swords were not available. Longbows and silver-tipped arrows were usually used as secondary weapons.[78]

ArtifactsEdit

The Singing Swords

The Singing Swords were twenty magical singing silver bastard swords provided by Eilistraee and wielded by Qilue Veladorn and the Chosen of Eilistraee who patrolled the Pit of Ghaunadaur near Skullport. The swords sang constantly (and loudly) when unsheathed, and lost their abilities and bonuses when silenced. The blade's song made its wielder confident and immune to charm, command, confusion, fear, friends, repulsion, scare and suggestion. An emotion cast on the wielder only caused rage, focused on the one who cast the emotion spell. The sword's song also cancelled the effects of a harpy's song, silenced shriekers, and could entrance weak, earthly, living creatures, although this ability could be negated by a bard's counter-song.[79]

The Crescent Blade

The Crescent Blade was a magical curved blade with a leather hilt. There was silver inlaid in the blade. On it were the Drow words, "Be your heart filled with light and your cause be true; I shall not fail you."[80] It was said that Eilistraee plucked a pebble from the heavens and tossed it to earth. It grew as large as a boulder and very hot. It was made of moonmetal; if one looked at the moon, they can see the hole in the shape of a crescent. The boulder was forged into a crescent-shaped blade with enchantments, including moonlight—it could cut through armor and stone—protection against evil, and being able to strike quickly. If the wielder was a true priestess, she could use it to sever the neck of any creature, including gods.[81]

Eilistraeen MagicEdit

The Spellsong

Priestesses of Eilistraee, particularly Sword Dancers, were known for their use of the Spellsong, the ability to invoke various magical effects through song and music. A Spellsong could replicate the effects of many other spells, heal a given creature or grant her protection from magic. If more priestesses took part to a Spellsong, its power could grow and become able to restore lost limbs of a given target, or cure a wide variety of illnesses, poisons or other negative effects.[82]

A particular form of Spellsong was the Grand Chorus, celebrated by the priestesses of the Promenade. This was the greatest ritual of worship to Eilistraee, a music of celebration sung by the faithful, constantly changing around a main melody led by a senior priestess. The magic of the Chorus could create beams of moonlight, whose intensity grew with the emotion of the singers. If such radiance met with real moonlight, Eilistraee's power made it so that any creature or item that the priestesses were touching or carrying while singing could be transported along a path of moonlight to any place where the moon was shining. It was through this spell that the priestesses traveled to the surface for their missions.[83]

The Moonfire

The most iconic Eilistraeen spell was the Dark Maiden's Moonfire. It was a beacon of light, whose intensity and color could be controlled by the creator at will (ranging from a faint glow to a clear, bright -but not blinding- light). Moonfire had the same intensity as moonlight, and it was generally used as a light source for reading, to see in the dark, as a signal for communication or for artistic purposes. Eilistraee could also occasionally choose to gift any creature the power to temporarily manifest her moonfire.[84][85]

RelationshipsEdit

Rare was the individual -dark elf or not- who appreciated that Eilistraee was forging her own path, one that welcomed beings of all races who reveled in life and the free form expression of all that entailed


The church of Eilistraee was little known and poorly understood by inhabitants of the surface world. Her worshippers were figures of myth in both the Underdark and the Realms above. They were the subject of superstitions and prejudice (such as the belief -held by surface dwellers- of them being the disguised vanguard of the Spider Goddess's plan to take over the surface, and that -held by those drow who followed the Way of Lolth- of them being surface elf spies posing as drow).[86]Most non-elves could not comprehend the existence a good drow deity, while surface elves were uncomfortable considering it, finding Eilistraee a threat to their doctrine that the dark elves were wholly to blame for the Crown wars and other ancient tragedies.[87]

However, some harpers, seeing a hope for the drow in the church of the Dark Maiden and in what it represented, chose to lend a helping hand to their cause.[88][89]

Among the enemies of the church of Eilistraee were the church of Lolth, Vhaeraun and Ghaunadaur. Eilistraee's allies included the Seldarine, Selûne and Mystra.[90][91]

For a brief time, during the Masked Lady's lifespan, the churches of Eilistraee and Vhaeraun agreed to a (difficult) cooperation [92], but it was unknown if said alliance continued after the Masked Lady was killed. Post-Sundering (circa 1480s DR), Eilistraee and Vhaeraun were alive and separate entities once again. They agreed to maintain a truce, but their followers still skirmished often.[93][34][35][94]

Near the Promenade, the effort that followers of Eilistraee put into fighting slavery gained them the enmity of slave merchants and organizations from Skullport.[26][27][95]

HistoryEdit

The Dawn Age and First Flowering (-30000 DR to -12000DR)Edit

After Eilistraee's self-imposed exile, in the time when most of the ancient elven empires were still rising, the Dark Maiden's faith was strong in Miyeritar and the goddess had small numbers of faithful in Ilythiir and the other elven realms of the time.[96] However, due to the rise of Vhaeraun's, Ghaunadaur's and Lolth's cults among the dark elves of Ilythiir, the relationship between the Eilistraeens and Gold, Green and Silver elven realms was rather difficult. When High Mages (circa -17600 DR) of all non dark elven Tel'Quessir gathered to create Evermeet (a safe haven for all elven people, where threat of the dark elves followers of Lolth and Vhaeraun couldn't have reached them) in a ritual known as Ever'Sakkatien, the plea of the followers of Eilistraee, that wanted to live in peace with other elves and be granted a place in said land, was thoroughly ignored.[97]

The Crown WarsEdit

Later, the Crown Wars (-12000 DR to -9000 DR) brought calamity upon the church of Eilistraee, and further damaged the relationship between dark and fair elves. The Dark Disaster (-10500 DR), which was unleashed by the Aryvandaari during the Third Crown War, destroyed the kingdom of Miyeritar and decimated its inhabitants, leaving only the arid and lifeless land known as the High Moor in place of what once was a greatly advanced elven realm. This event alone severely weakened the Dark Maiden's followers, but when the Ilythiiri and surviving Miyeritari were transformed into the drow and banished from the surface world at the end of the Fourth Crown War (-10000 DR, Descent of the Drow), Eilistraee's church effectively collapsed, with only a few ancient, sacred sites of power built before the Crown Wars surviving (in the Misty Forest, along the borders of the High Moor, and in the Shaar.[98])

RebuildingEdit

Only after millennia the followers of Eilistraee started to rise again in number and her church to reform[98], but it was a difficult process, because of the persecution of the church of Lolth and the hostility of many of the very surface dwelleres that the drow of the Dark Maiden sought to befriend and live in peace with (for example, many elves refused to believe their existence -or even Eilistraee's existence-, unhappy with what it could represent for some central convinctions about their history. Namely, the malevolence of all drow being the cause of the Crown Wars.[99]). In fact, while the rebuilding of Eilistraee's and her church's influence continued during the years that followed the Crown Wars, their strength ebbed and flowed during this period of time.

In the Year of Shadows Fleeting (-331 DR), the drow of the Twisted Tower were defeated and driven away by the armies of Cormanthyr and Rystal Wood, and the structure was left under the protection of the followers of the Dark Dancer. Within a century, the Tower of the Dark Moon became Eilistraee's greatest temple in the Realms and an new hope rose for the goddess and those who joined her dance. However that only lasted a few centuries, as the Dark Maiden's temple fell once again to the Lolthite drow Cormanthyr in 190 DR (and with time became known again by its original name, the Twisted Tower of Ashaba). All that remained of the Eilistraee's magic was her moonfire that surrounded the form any follower of the goddess who mentioned her name within the tower halls.[100][101]

Later, starting since 1355 DR, the church of Eilistraee gained renewed stability with the foundation of the Promenade of the Dark Maiden (led by Qilué Veladorn, chosen of Eilistraee and Mystra), the most important center of worship of the Dark Dancer.[102]

The Era of UpheavalEdit

During the 1300s DR, especially during the during the early decades (1350s-1370s) of the Era of Upheval, the followers of Eilistraee increased their efforts toward helping the drow escaping the Underdark and forming relationships with other races, particularly elves. An example was Karsel'lyn Lylyl-Lytherraias interceding in Evermeet for the drow of Eilistraaee (see Activities). Cormanthor was one of the areas that saw a particularly intense Eilistraeen activity, due to the significant presence of surface drow.[103]

In the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, the goddess Lolth went into a state of hibernation, a period called the Silence of Lolth. During this time, Lolth's absence led a considerable number of her followers to seek alternatives in the other deities of the Dark Seldarine. Due to their effort into seeking and protecting drow in need of help, the Church of Eilistraee saw a large influx of followers. One of the new converts, Halisstra Melarn, was chosen to wield the artifact known as the Crescent Blade, which could be used to kill Lolth before her awakening (in 1373 DR). Halisstra went on a mission to the Demonweb Pits, leading two fellow priestesses of the Dark Maiden, Uluyara and Feliane. However, after being defeated at the hand of Quenthel Baenre, Halisstra ultimately decided to betray Eilistraee and convert back to the awakened Lolth. The Spider Queen punished her former heresy by turning her into the Lady Penitent, whose duty was to hunt drow who tried to turn to other faiths. The Crescent Blade was left broken, lying in the Demonweb Pits.[104][105][106]

After 1372 DR, a drow matron mother who called herself the Valsharess, using the Silence of Lolth as a distraction, managed to invade the Undermountain, conquer the Underdark region around it, and use it as a base to launch an attack on the city of Waterdeep. An adventurer found themselves involved in this matter through a geas spell cast by Halaster Blackcloak himself, but also found an ally in an Eilistraeen drow assassin named Nathyrra. She led the adventurer to the base of a resistance force, a ragtag rebel army led by Eilistraee's followers. A mysterious priestess of Eilistraee known as the Seer led the small band of Eilistraeen drow in an abandoned Lolthian temple located in the Underdark port city of Lith My'athar.[107]

After the end of the Silence of Lolth, the Judicators of Selvetarm initiated a series of attacks against the shrines and temples of Eilistraee. At the same time, the church of Vhaeraun planned to cast an High Magic spell to allow Vhaeraun to enter his sister's realm and assassinate her. However, that kind of magic was very taxing, and would have required the sacrifice of the souls of the casters. Because of that, the followers of the Masked Lord started to kill various priestesses of Eilistraee and collect their souls in their masks (a technique which they called "soultheft"), in order to use them as a fuel for the ritual.[69]

Eventually, Qilué Veladorn managed to learn about their plan and worked to disrupt it alongside the drow mage Q'arlynd Melarn. The latter had come in contact with the followers of Eilistraee through a portal to the surface that a priestess had opened in the ruins of Ched Nasad, and Qilué managed to gain his loyalty, converting him to the faith of Eilistraee. Q'arlynd's task--that he accepted to prove his loyalty to the Dark Maiden--was to take the place of one of the Vhaerunites and try to disrupt their ritual. Meanwhile, Cavatina Xarann, a Darksong Knight serving Eilistraee, was sent by Qilué on a mission to recover the Crescent Blade from the Demonweb pits. While Cavatina was in the Demonweb Pits and Q'arlynd was attempting to stop the Vhaerunites, Qilué led the defense against the followers of Selvetarm who tried to attack the Promenade of the Dark Maiden.[69]

On Nightal 20 of the Year of Risen Elfkin, 1375 DR, Cavatina killed the demigod Selvetarm (with the help of the Lady Penitent), using the Crescent Blade that she had recovered almost intact. On the same date, Q'arlynd failed to accomplish his mission and Vhaearaun managed to try to kill Eilistraee. However, his attempt failed and Eilistraee became the Masked Lady, taking Vhaeraun's portfolio[69].

This change heavily impacted the followers of the Dark Maiden and the Masked Lord, as they started working together in their efforts against Lolth.[69]

In the Year of the Haunting, 1377 DR, Kiaransalee and her cultists initiated hostilities against the church of Eilistraee. Qilué Veladorn and the followers of the Masked Lady retaliated with an assault against the Acropolis of Thanatos, in the drow city of V'elddrinnsshar, the main center of worship of Kiaransalee. The war concluded with the defeat of the followers of the Vengeful Banshee and of the demigoddess herself: in fact, an High Magic ritual, performed by Q'arlynd Melarn, deleted the demigoddess' name from the minds of every Torillian being, including Kiaransalee herself, leading to her disappearance.[108]

Between the 1377 DR and 1379 DR, cultists of Ghaunadaur attacked the Promenade in the attempt to destroy the prison, guarded by the followers of Eilistraee, that prevented their god from creeping to Toril. Their attempt failed, but the inhabitants of the temple suffered heavy losses.[109]

Later, in 1379 DR, the conflict between the Masked Lady and Lolth ultimately ended with the defeat of the former, who was supposedly killed, alongside Qilué Veladorn, by Halisstra Melarn.[110] In the same year, a High Magic ritual performed by Q'arlynd Melarn transformed those drow not tainted by Wendonai's blood and the followers of Eilistraee/Masked Lady back into their original dark elven form, and Corellon Larethian thus permitted the souls of Eilistraee's faithful and the newly transformed dark elves to enter Arvandor.[109]. The activities of the churches of Eilistraee and Vhaeraun during the absence of their gods remained unknown.

The Second Sundering (1480s DR)Edit

During the 1480s DR, after the Sundering (event), the Masked Lady was no more, but Eilistraee and Vhaeraun were alive and separate entites again[34]. Both siblings manifested to their followers through their avatars, letting their return be known and many worshipers enthusiastically spread the voice, leading to a resurgence of the activities of both cults.[111][112][113]In particular, Eilistraee was seen dancing and speaking to mortals in many places, especially along the Sword Coast. For example, the citizens of Waterdeep witnessed the Dark Dancer, as she danced in the moonlight, near the walls of the city, up the road to Amphail. This led many moondancers to the City of Splendors, with the goal of creating a shrine to their goddess within its walls.[114]

After the time spent as the Masked Lady, Eilistraee and Vhaeraun reached a reciprocal understanding and a truce, although conflicts between their followers began anew.[35][94]

During the event known as the Rage of Demons, a group of Sword Dancer of Eilistraee, led by the charismatic and kind-hearted high priestess Saradreza Oussmtor, decided to help an unlikely coalition (composed by agents of the Harpers, Zhentarim, Emerald Enclave, Lords' Alliance and Order of the Gauntlet; by the drow of Szith Morcane, led by archmage Solom Ned'razak, the warriors followers Elanil Elassidil of the Hillsfar rebellion, the Red Plumes guided by First Lord Vuhm Yestral, the myconids of Sporedome, and the illithids of Ryxyg) to oppose Graz'zt's growing influence in Maerimydra. The demon lord had in fact rallied the fire giants led by his daughter Hledh Hellspawn, and turned Maerimydra into a base from where he would work to spread his demonic influence and gain control over the Material Plane (through a restored Undying Temple, which he planned to use to gain free access to the whole prime--surface included). His threat had already taken a heavy toll on the drow of Szith Morcane and in the area of Elventree and Hillsfar, leading unlikely allies to band together to face demons and giants.[115]

The followers of the Dark Dancer saw this as a good opportunity to lend their help, and spread the message of Eilistraee among other drow who were tired of Lolth's tyranny. The alliance would eventually succeed, and Saradreza and the other Sword Dancers would have the opportunity to gain a place in Maerimydra alongside the drow of Szith Morcane, from where they hoped to establish good relationships between the drow and the other inhabitants of the Moonsea area.[116]

Shrines and TemplesEdit

Temples of the Dark Maiden were typically established in the mouths of caverns or in woodlands, places that allowed her followers to reach and act on the surface world. Temples in the Underdark -even shrines close to the surface- were unusual and the Promenade of the Dark Maiden was unique in being a large center of worship of the Dark Dancer, the main one, founded in the caverns of the Undermountain, to prevent the return of Ghaunadaur. Eilistraee's places of worship were chosen mostly like elves chose spots to dedicate to the Seldarine: followers of Eilistraee used natural places that needed little modification and tended to live in harmony with their surroundings, leaving few traces of their passage, with only few exceptions (like the drow of the Promeande of the Dark Maiden)[117]. Temples typically included a glade where to dance and from where the moon was fully visible, a dark place removed from the light of day, a thick tree canopy, a fresh water stream, a forge for the crafting of swords, an access tunnel to the Underdark, and a vein of iron or some other metal suitable for the craft. However, all of that was not necessary, as a shrine of the Dark Maiden only required a moonlit glade and a song capable of leading one into a dance.[118].

Below is a list including most known temples and shrine of Eilistraee.

The Dancing Dell was a valley surrounding the Ladystone, a sacred stone touched by Eilistraee. The Dark Maiden herself manifested in the dell, more than once, to dance with her priestesses. Her worship in the dell was led by her chosen, Qiluè Veladorn.[119][120][121]

A shrine to Eilistraee whose community was led by Seyll Auzkovyn. The followers of the goddess there were welcomed in the near Elventree.

A shrine to the Dark Maiden whose community was led by Rebekkah Darklyte.

A small clearing in northern High Forest, that became sacred to Eilistraee after 1358 DR. The magic of the goddess lingered in the area (especially on a large flat-top stone bearing a single footprint of the size of a drow felmale's foot), blessing all those who danced there and keeping portals to her realm in Arvandor and to a cave near the Promenade.

The shrine is a natural pillar of black rock about ten feet tall, carved with crescent moon-shaped holes that create the sound of several flutes playing when the wind blows. The hilt of a sword protrudes from the top of the rock. Hidden behind a nearby waterfall, is a cave that houses the shrine's followers.[124]

In a section of the forest littered with broken chunks of stone is an ancient structure that consists of a dozen sharp sword-shaped columns of black obsidian set point-first into a circular platform of white stone; the column-sword's hilts flattened to support a weathered circular roof of white stone with a round moon-shaped hole at its center.[126]

A shrine to Eilistraee located in a cave beneath a treeless hill in Moonwood.[100]

Eilistraee

Eilistraee, as illustrated by Matt Wilson

The main center of worship of Eilistraee after 1355 DR, located near Skullport. It had portals to other parts of Faerûn, and access to tunnels into the Underdark for redemption missions.[127] The Promenade was led by High Priestess Qilué Veladorn.

A shrine located in a gully surrounded by shadowtop trees, in northern Velarswood.[100] The Eilistraeens that dwelt in the shrine were creating a surface home there and had good relations with local humans, whom they aided when ill.[128][129].

For five centuries (-331 DR to 190 DR) the Twisted Tower, in Shadowdale, was the greatest temple to Eilistraee in Faerûn, until the Lolthite drow of Cormathor conquered the place.

A score of followers of Eilistraee in the High Forest, their camp is near the Dessarin, north of the Lost Peaks and less than a night's travel to Everlund[47]. Formerly led by Ysolde Veladorn[100], then led by the drow Dolor after Ysolde's death in 1361 DR.[130]

AppearancesEdit

Novels
Sourcebooks
Articles
Video games
Board Games
  • Lords of WaterdeepScoundrels of Skullport expansion: One of the quest cards available to the players is called "Protect converts to Eilistraee", saying "The Dark Lady smiles on those who see the deeper beauty within."

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