The book moves on apace; almost all material is in (we’re literally waiting on one career now) and proofreading and layout has begun, and meanwhile you’re hungry for more glimpses I hope! Part one looked at some fiction, part two some art, and now some setting details! We wanted Estalian religion to feel very different from Empire religion, so polytheism gives way to monotheism, but monotheism is of course a funny thing. The Maiden has a Sacred Family: her father, Morr, her mother Verena and her sister Shallya are also holy figures. And then the Maiden herself has many faces, as Chapter Eight explains:
In the Empire, where Myrmidia is known only as a warrior goddess, they know only her lore as the Captain, the Commander and the Wrathful, something the Estalians see as very limited and myopic. Many Estalians also have trouble grasping the strongly polytheistic world of the Empire: why have a god for every little thing when Myrmidia is the god of all? In fact, some scholars have noted spells akin to those of Morr and Verena being cast by Myrmidians, and even spells of Taal and Ranald being known by those who worship Myrmidia the Wanderer. To Estalians, this proves the Empire folk are childish, having to dress up aspects of Myrmidia in antlers so the woodsmen can pretend to have their own god; to the Empire folk the Myrmidians are trying to stuff everything under one name whether it fits or not. Heretical thinkers wonder if all the spells are the same and the gods only dressings added by man, and that the dressings vary just as costumes do between lands. Such thinkers are typically burned very quickly on exceedingly hot pyres.
Estalians may study Myrmidia’s aspect of a Captain, a Commander or a deliverer of Wrath (see Tome of Salvation). Other aspects of the Goddess include:
- Myrmidia the Beautiful, representing Myrmidia’s gift for craftsmanship and the arts. Myrmidia taught that a beautiful weapon is a more deadly one, and a beautified nation is a proud one. Devotees of this aspect, Beatines learn spells of music, dance and crafting, and aim to spread beauty wherever they go. Most of them learn a craft or an art, if not several, and act as travelling minstrels, trading their beatification for food and shelter. Others advise whole towns on architecture or other civic words.
- Myrmidia the Brave teaches courage and fortitude in all things. All those who know fear and suffering pray to Myrmidia the Brave to give them strength to see things through. Shallya may save, but it is Myrmidia the Brave who gives them courage to wait for Shallya’s answer. Devotees of the Brave Maiden are known for their unflinching courage and their tendency to always take the lead. Some consider them rash and dangerous as a result. Valorites get on well with the Kislevite sons of Tor.
- Myrmidia of the Last Journey is the very last part of the goddess’ life, where she journeyed west on the boat that would bear her to the horizon and thence up to the heavens. Those who worship the Last Journey do not intrude on Father Morr’s domain, however; they instead seek that all should reach their destination on calm seas and safe roads, although seas tend to be their primary focus. Most Journeyers spend their lives at sea, but unlike Manannites are expected to work as hard as the rest of their crew.
- Myrmidia the Lightbringer is the aspect of the goddess who illuminates and enlightens the world. She is different from Verena, because Verena holds knowledge and records, and deals with the minutiae of laws and strictures. The Lightbringer represents the granting of knowledge and insight, and the illumination of all the peoples in the world, towards a better nation as Myrmidia wished. Lightbringers aim to teach someone something at least once a day.
- Myrmidia the Merciful is very close to Shallya, but as with the Lightbringer and Verena, the differences are important. Shallya is the goddess of kindness; she gives life. Myrmidia the Merciful prevents the loss of life with her sword and her shield, sparing both her enemies and her allies. She is the temperance of Myrmidia’s wrath, the arm that holds back the blade when it is necessary, and knows that a good surrender is better than a great decimation. Mercines favour restraint in battle and in everything they do.
- Myrmidia the Pure stands for the core principles of Myrmidia’s Bellona Lexus, the rules of battle. She values honour and respect and truth above all, and strives for all combat to be noble and fair. With their emphasis on just battle and a just life, Purists get on well with Vereneans – but besides that, they have few friends. Even the most noble Myrmidian priest finds the Purists a bit tiresome after a while.
- Myrmidia the Seer has many facets: she has her father’s ability to see oracles, her mother’s insight and her own gift for foresight and great vision. She is the eagle that soars high and sees all coming; and looks low and sees the tiniest truth hidden amongst the lies. Not all Seers are great oracles: there are many things that can be seen and their future glimpses are often little more than instinct and danger sense. But when the blades come down, that’s more than enough.
- Myrmidia of the Shining Stars is very close to Myrmidia the Seer: she too sees the future for is not our fate written in the stars? When Myrmidia ascended to heaven after her assassination she placed her form above the land so all would know she watched over them still. Those who venerate the Maiden of the Stars see fates ahead but also know how to find their way, on land, but especially on sea. Like those of the Last Journey, she is often found employed on ships.
- Myrmidia the Wanderer is – to the Wanderers who follow her, at least – the true face of the maiden. For whether she was fighting or illuminating or seeing, she was always travelling, often miles and miles a day, for months at a time. Legend has it she walked every yard of Estalia in her brief time, and fanatical Wanderers try to do the same. The Wanderers are the humblest order, shunning wealth and homes, always on the road like their goddess and mixing with the common folk. Many people, including their fellow Myrmidians, consider them annoying beggars but the Wanderers don’t seem to care.