|Iphigenia von Saltz|
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I thought I'd share a short article I wrote about the Black Butterfly for the Strange Aeons campaign I am currently playing. What little information we have about this empyreal lord can be found in Chronicle of the Righteous (and now, Bestiary 6), but my GM graciously allowed me to expand on it so I might have more to draw upon for my cleric. I mimiced the format and style of the entries found in Inner Sea Gods and Inner Sea Faiths, though this is considerably shorter. I hope that others might find a use for it in their own games if this interests them.
The Black Butterfly: The Silence Between
When Desna hung her stars in the sky, the negative space between them birthed a dark mirror of the goddess, known as the Black Butterfly. This empyreal lord is regarded by other deities as a twin sister of sorts to her creator. While the Silence Between shares Desna’s love of freedom and wandering, her areas of concern are distinct, and her worshippers follow a very different path.
After Desna brought her forth from the darkness, the Black Butterfly began exploring the far reaches of the cosmos with great curiosity. However, what she observed on her journey has chilled her passionate nature. Tabris recorded in the Chronicle of the Righteous that she took a vow of silence, so that she might never unleash her dangerous knowledge about the Dark Tapestry into the world. The most common myth about her recounts an incident early in her existence in which she naïvely led Zon-Kuthon back to heaven from the outer reaches of space, not recognizing the effects of his dark transformation until it was too late. Today the Black Butterfly is a wiser figure, if far more stoic, and she represents a respect for the unknown and caution in the face of danger.
The Black Butterfly is even more aloof and distant than Desna herself. Hers is a way of life far removed from that of her capricious sister; the Black Butterfly roams more out of duty than enjoyment, observing the world but rarely sharing what she knows of it. Though serious, she can occasionally be taken with whimsy, and often rejuvenates herself by observing the innocent and carefree at play.
The Black Butterfly values inner peace and generosity over strength and intelligence, and her followers hold her in high esteem for her embodiment of a steadfast heart in the face of life’s crushing indifference. She is commonly worshipped by the those who are blind, deaf, or mute. Individuals with anxiety, hallucinations, and other psychological ailments also turn to her for healing and support. Vows of isolation and silence are common among her clergy, and monasteries dedicated to her teachings are far more common than is typical for an empyreal lord. While she sees solitude as a virtue, she also provides relief for those suffering imprisonment or loneliness, recognizing that the company of others is a panacea to most beings. While her sister rules over all forms of travel, the Black Butterfly claims distance itself as part of her portfolio. Lovers separated from one another find themselves under her guidance, as do those who intentionally put leagues between themselves and someone they’d rather not see again.
Her worship is most common in Absolom, the Sodden Lands, Varisia, and in regions where stargazing and astrology are common. She is more widely worshipped on other planets in the solar system, especially by the Lashunta of Castrovel, while gnomes generally scorn her ascetic values as dangerous to their sanity. Cults of the Black Butterfly are generally small groups led by an oracle or mystery cultist who has taken a vow of silence. Worship services are usually modest meditations, though some scholars report cults partaking of secret rituals in which a worshipper floats in a dark saltwater pool to have out-of-body experiences. The study of abjuration is also common among initiates, who eventually earn the right to carry a special silver bell used for banishing spells. However, cultists spend most of their time doing charitable work for those in need, and eschew taking credit whenever possible. The Black Butterfly’s followers are frequent allies to the oppressed and mistreated for this reason, and have been known to support rebellions and abolitionist groups. Worshippers have no formalized garb, though dark colors and silver jewelry are favored. Fanatic followers sometimes adopt ornate blindfolds as everyday attire, while dark lenses are a less extreme way of distancing oneself from sensation. Holy symbols are often displayed conservatively, incorporated into garments in a subtle way to avoid ostentation. Those under vows of silence sometimes apply extremely dark or light pigment to their lips to communicate their desire to avoid speech.
Clerics of the Black Butterfly can heal the psyche as well as the body, frequently serving as counselors to help people overcome nightmares, trauma, and other psychological complaints. Spells such as restoration and unbreakable heart are favored by priestesses for this reason. They also preach a variety of ways to avoid mental contamination, though much of this advice is dismissed as paranoid superstition.
Priests are required to adhere to several general edicts to maintain their divine powers. Just as Desna forbids the casting of nightmare, the Black Butterfly abhors the casting of insanity and requires her vassals to undo the spell and destroy copies of it where they find it. Priestesses may not speak words intended to harm another, and may not engage in acts of vengeance. They must also maintain confidence, never sharing a secret willingly unless keeping it would truly bring another to harm. Those who stray from these ways egregiously enough or often enough lose their divine powers until they atone.
Unlike Desna’s bold and gregarious lot, adventurers who follow the Silence Between often have a skittish, world-weary air about them. Many of them have suffered unfortunate consequences as a result of involvement with eldritch occurrences, such as wizards touched by insanity from reading unspeakable tomes and investigators obsessed with the fate of lost loved ones. While their companions may find them mousy or stuck-up, these adventurers prove unyieldingly kind and brave in the face of fear. However, they have a strong tendency to keep things from even trusted friends, which can lead to devastating falling outs when secrets are revealed.
Relations with Other Deities
Desna and the Black Butterfly regard each other as twins and trust each other more than anyone else. The Black Butterfly shares her sister’s enmity for Ghalunder, a horror which should never have been unleashed from the cosmos, and often helps hunt him. Lamashtu’s twisted ways similarly displease her, although not as personally as they do Desna. The Black Butterfly feels the greatest hatred for the Outer Gods and Great Old Ones, whose works and aims she tirelessly opposes. Her cults frequently come into antagonistic contact with the insane worshippers of these dark powers, and the results can be explosive.
The Black Butterfly looks fondly on Pulura, Ghenshau, and Milani, whose company rejuvenates her when the howling horrors of the Dark Tapestry test her limits. She stolidly avoids the Boneyard, leading many to believe she does not respect Pharasma; in fact, it is Groetus she wishes to stay away from, and it is rumored that she may know what it is he is waiting for. Some mad prophets even claim that the Black Butterfly herself will usher in Groetus’s apocalypse.
Though most full-fledged deities do not regard the Black Butterfly as their equal, she is among the strongest of the empyreal lords, and her followers hope that she will one day achieve full divinity and become as well-known as her sister. Paranoid scholars of eldritch phenomena suspect that she has held many incursions by the Great Old Ones at bay already, and conjecture that she may yet defeat one and ascend in a manner similar to Sarenrae.
Lavinia Helmin (human ghost, mesmerist 7) was an academic in Oppara some hundred years ago. She became obsessed with a mysterious outbreak of nightmares among the librarians of the university after they came into contact with a book unearthed in an Osirian tomb. Unable to relieve their nightly suffering, she eventually set out to investigate the root of the problem, and never returned. She responds to call planar ally or similar calls for aid from worshippers, though she takes offense to being asked about the journey that proved to be her end. As a reward for her aid, she asks only that her summoner provide her with a dream journal containing at least two weeks’ worth of dreams.
Flutterdust (unique celestial gloomwing): This enormous gloomwing flies through the sky on new moons, the dust from its wings bringing calm to creatures it rains down on. While it is capable of communicating verbally, it expresses itself in disjointed and heavily accented celestial, making it difficult to understand. Flutterdust is willing to aid the faithful in battle, but it requires that the recipients of its aid care for one of its pupa young until it cocoons. Thankfully these tenebrous worms are not nearly so violent as their counterparts from the Shadow Plane, though their size and grotesque appearance can provide a significant inconvenience for the month that this task requires.
Blueflame (unique yamah): This somber azata is the herald of the Black Butterfly. Perpetually silent, she communicates only through sign languages or written celestial. She detests being out in the daytime, and is easily disturbed by loud noises or bright lights. Cults that summon her bear no memory of her company afterwards, and are only able to determine that she was ever there at all through careful deduction.