Desna (pronounced DEZ-nuh) was one of the first deities, but while her peers burdened themselves with the task of creating the world, she spent her time building the heavens. She knew that there would be plenty of time for her and her followers to explore the many wonders of the world later. She's changed little since those earlier days, and she and her followers delight in exploring the world.
Desna is an ancient goddess of freedom and luck, and is credited with the creation of the heavens. In her earliest days, the god Curchanus, an enemy of the goddess Lamashtu, was her mentor. Lamashtu laid a trap for Curchanus and stripped him of his beast domain, ripping it from his godly essence. As he died, he gifted Desna with the domain of travel; she has traveled the planes and worlds since, opposing both oppression and Lamashtu wherever she encounters them, and spreading her word while making an effort to experience new wonders when she can.
During the Age of Creation, Desna was among the original gods who battled the Rough Beast who sought to destroy the world, and were eventually able to contain him in the Dead Vault.
The ancients worshiped Desna as a goddess of stars before she was gifted the travel domain, and sometimes depicted her as a single star.
Perhaps by chance, Desna has been involved in the creation or freeing of a number of minor deities. She is said to accidentally have freed Ghlaunder, the mosquito god of infection and parasites, from his cocoon on the Ethereal Plane. She also is rumored to have raised the brave Kurgess to godhood with the help of Cayden Cailean.
Desna is a Varisian goddess often described as a beautiful elven woman, with butterfly wings containing all the beauty of a clear night sky. She is often depicted as having dark hair, silvery eyes, and a coy but distant smile, wearing diaphanous gowns and sometimes accompanied by swarms of butterflies.
Additional details vary among the races that worship her; the Bonuwat people of the Mwangi Expanse worship a variant form of Desna, a janiform amalgam with Gozreh that they call Shimye-Magalla. The nomadic Kellids of northern Avistan depict Desna not as the elegant elven woman, but a stately human woman riding an elk.
Desna is strongly opposed to Lamashtu due to the murder of Desna's one-time mentor, and wishes to reclaim the domain of beasts. She also actively hunts the demigod Ghlaunder, the Gossamer King, whom legends claim she accidentally freed from his cocoon. Cayden Cailean is known to be a suitor of hers, but she keeps aloof of most godly affairs; past traumas and her desire for freedom lead her into fewer interactions with other deities than most. She is known to have good relations with Sarenrae, Neria and Shelyn, and to oppose both Rovagug and Zon-Kuthon for control of the night, which she wishes to be a time of wonder and beauty.
Unlike most of the other deities, Desna has no true realm in the Great Beyond, although she does occasionally travel to a small castle that floats above the rugged beauty of Elysium. Her true home is among the stars of the Material Plane, where it is rumored she lives in a place called the Sevenfold Cynosure, somewhere in or around the star Cynosure.
Desna generally communicates with her followers through dreams, sending images, feelings, or even prophecies that stick in the recipient's mind after waking. If there is not enough time for dreams, or they are otherwise unsuitable, she can send swarms of butterflies, sparrows, dragonflies, or geese that fly in a four-pointed star shape. When displeased, she can withhold a restful sleep, make sure the mortal gets sore feet, has a travel accident, or that a messenger animal loses its way.
Desna and her faithful hold creatures that symbolize freedom and the night sky as beautiful and holy. Butterflies are a particular favorite, and the appearance of swarms of them is often seen as a sign of the goddess' favor. Other favored creatures include the azatas, star monarchs, and certain fey creatures of the night. Her divine servitor race are the thyrliens, winged azatas who watch over those traveling by night and who are the warrior counterparts of the gentler lyrakien.
Some of Mother Moon's known servants include:
Nightspear – This black and silver spotted avoral is a fierce ally of the Desnan clergy, and often sings in battle.
Sorrowbrand – A dramatic lillend composer with black, star-dappled scales and feathers, Sorrowbrand wears many black ribbons and enjoys inspiring mortal songs.
The Night Monarch – Appearing as a massive butterfly-like creature the size of a dragon, the night monarch is the herald of Desna.
Church of Desna
Desna is the goddess of travel and journeys, and there are few who traverse the roads who wouldn't spare her a prayer or a simple-worded plea for benediction. Scouts, sailors, and those who travel for travel's sake make up a large number of her followers, though her focus on luck also makes her a favorite deity among gamblers and thieves. Whatever their calling, followers of the Song of Spheres search the world for new experiences, and try to live their life to the fullest.
The church of Desna has few temples, as its priests rarely settle in a single location. The faithful of the Great Dreamer can be found on the roads of the world, and especially among the caravans and others who call the road their home and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. Other centers of worship include the elves of Argundun, The Holy City of Wabluff, Woofield, Barukthund, Keygate, Thorevik, The Golden City of Bafeld, Cibrycg and Lindolind.
Desna is held in special affection by many halflings, especially those who travel or seek adventure. Traveling halflings take tokens of the goddess and frequent her shrines along their journey. They attribute their special luck and some halflings' ability to jinx as a gift from the goddess. This luck is personified in the goddess Chaldira Zuzaristan, who halflings believe is Desna's loyal friend.
The informal clergy of Desna is primarily composed of clerics, though on occasion bards are called by some song or whisper in the night to follow her path. In addition, spherewalkers are paragons of the Desnan ideal: they see new sights each day and discover unheard of locales.
Her clergy usually garb themselves in white robes with black trim and silk caps, highlighted by varied decorative elements (especially among priests of high status), and usually accompanied by one or more starknives.
Temples and shrines
Temples of Desna are few and far between, with most locations no more than roadside shrines erected in her honor. Travelers often leave markings and dedications in newly discovered areas and secluded locales. Those few temples that do exist often serve as observatories and are open to the night sky, with plentiful texts, charts, and instruments to help track the stars and determine astronomical events.
Dedicated to the faith of Desna, seven bell towers scattered throughout the Republic of Indel. The seven towers represented the Seven Towers of Desna's palace and each tower houses a sacred Bell of Mercy. Pilgrimages to all seven towers were often undertaken by Desna's faithful.
Writings sacred to Desna tend to be easily portable, written in simple language and often containing references to exotic, beautiful places and roads containing a shrine.
The Eight Scrolls – These writings detail Desna's early days and the basic edicts of her faith.
Shrine Wall Writings – Almost all Desnan shrines are covered with the observations and prayers of travelers and priests of her faith, containing the wisdom of the road and hints for the start of new journeys.
The spring month of Achiel is sacred as it is favored by the goddess.
Ritual of Stardust – This holiday takes place on both the winter and summer solstices. When the ceremonial fires burn low, the faithful throw sand mixed with gems into the embers and make wishes and pledges for the months to come.
Swallowtail Festival – Every year on the first day of the month of Hielat (Fall), the followers of Desna release cages full of swallowtail butterflies, an act that honors a story told by the faithful.