Roads to the North
Order of the Fair Raven
The Order of the Fair Raven is a small religion that is followed by few but extremely dedicated acolytes and warriors, only a couple hundred in total members of it. They choose to spread far apart in self-sufficient clusters, often operating within small unassuming villages or towns where they can live and perform their duties in peace. One of the largest and most prosperous sects of it is located in Hawkpoint, often sending members downhill to larger cities for trade or negotiations. Aside from their various tasks for their goddess they will live simple lives, every so often one could see a member of the order browsing a marketplace or conversing with townsfolk, sharing stories of their travels and order with bards and barkeeps that would listen.
Other religious communities tend to regard the Order of the Fair Raven with a degree of disgust or respect though many remain neutral or even unaware entirely of them.
The Fair Raven is their Goddess, a neutral diety who is said to govern the dead and judge them for their final resting place.
The first documented mention of the Fair Raven is a poem appropriately titled ‘The Fair Raven (Poem)’, which paints her as a pale woman with dark hair, as well as a pair of wings of varying coloration, both in and out of the raven form. It was written by the founder of the Order of the Fair Raven, and in his later writing ‘The Baroness and the Merchant’ he would tell of her raven form and its significance. For example, how people see her as a dead raven on the morning they are destined to pass and then alive moments before their death, no one else seeing her. While reports of people seeing a raven in unusual places are very rare, there have been many claims of people seeing a strange bird before they would go on meet their final rest. Skeptics and those disbelieving in Her will often argue it is because of insanity or inspiration from the story that they claim to see these things.
The poem covers her arrival in ‘darkness’ or ‘a void’, what those in the order address limbo as, and her heralding of the lost souls within to their respective afterlife. It also details how she is able to bring others to life should she feel their pull towards the mortal coil be too great for them to rest in an afterlife, as well as if their resurrection would have a tangible positive impact on the mortal balance. She is shown as fair both in appearance and judgement, lending her name to two aspects of her being. It also describes how only those within the order may know the name, and upon hearing it they are sworn to never share it. The secrecy has led to her being considered a ‘nameless goddess’, even if whether or not she even is one is up for debate. Some argue that she is merely an entity that happens to governs the dead while others argue whether she is a minor or major goddess, members of the Order of the Fair Raven never giving them an answer.
While these first-party works show the Fair Raven as a sympathetic but just entity that is parts kind and parts not, later iterations and variants from people not in the order would paint her differently.
In some variants of the story, likely from clergy who had known of the order but was mistrusting or even hateful of them, the Fair Raven is shown as an unfair and cruel bringer of death and in some later samples was even accused of being the cause of the plague.
Likewise people who were overly respectful or admiring of the order would create a version in which the nameless goddess is an extremely compassionate and understanding woman, almost a motherly figure towards lost souls and an eternal caretaker.
Meanwhile those who only see media pertaining to The Fair Raven for entertainment value alone underplay or remove the religious aspect entirely. The most popular example of this is the variant of ‘The Baroness and the Merchant’ called; ‘The Merchant and the Mischievous Raven’.
The story becomes about how a greedy and ruthless merchant sees a dead raven and ponders selling such an unusual bird, putting it on his cart… only for the raven to squawk as he doesn’t expect it and make him soil himself with fright, the bird having made him look a fool in front of his guards and all passer-bys. All three alternative versions of the nameless goddess annoy those within the order equally, most unhappy that an entirely neutral goddess is assigned labels as ‘good’, ‘evil’ or is outright parodied.
Followers of The Fair Raven are usually tasked with maintaining the cycle of life and death, while particularly resolute members are rewarded with magical items created by their Goddess. These items are typically cursed which represents their ties to the mortal coil and seeking to lift the curse is taken as abandonment of the cause.
Acolytes and priests will maintain the balance with forseeing burials and assisting lost souls to the afterlife. The Fair Raven despises undead as they violate the sacred laws of life and death, the spellcasters and pastors often equipped to deal with the undead very effectively. Seeking immortality is also defiance of the natural order and is greatly punished.
Aside from common followers and worshippers there is another branch called Blades of Sorrow within the order. There are only six of them among the three or four estimated sects of the Order and they are extremely skilled combatants and assassins. When an individual or group of individuals would throw off the fragile balance of mortality too much, either through mass raising of undead or mass killing, then a Blade of Sorrow is sent to kill them. It is the belief of the Fair Raven that each person should not take more lives than they save or maintain and she becomes livid when anyone so brazenly disregards that ideal.
They are typically non-violent and will not side with any particular side of a conflict in most cases, though have been known to work against anyone who would try to shift the cycle of life or death too far either direction. They are hateful of necromancers and especially liches.