Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
Kitantha, Goddess of the Ocean and Mother of Magic, has a long and mysterious history. It is well established that she was worshipped in the Sheikhdoms that once controlled swathes of northern Cis-Arbina before the Sacred Empire arose; in some regions she was recognised as a Goddess, in others as a holy woman blessed by Urakan. After two hundred years of steady warfare against the Empire, the disparate Sheikhdoms were fragmented; critics say she recognised the winning side, cynics say she was bribed by the Empire’s offer of adding her to the official pantheon, and her faithful say the Empire merely recognised the truth that the Sheikhs had forgotten – regardless of the truth, she abruptly changed sides and called upon the Sheikhdoms to surrender to the “rightful” heirs to the world. Some did; the event was a death knell for the Sheikhdoms and empowered the nascent Empire hugely, catapulting them from a powerful upstart gang of nomads playing at statesmanship, into a global force that could fell ancient nations and assimilate them, a force that even Gods paid heed to.
Kitantha, though, was never an easy fit with the Imperial pantheon; the doctrines of Urakan Invictus (as the Empire calls him) bore more relation to a military general than to the laissez-faire overdeity she usually spoke of in her public appearances. The grandstanding pomp and ceremony of Bartus, and the omnipresent evangelism of Talras, contrasted with Kitantha’s understated, almost hermit-like status; she remained aloof and enigmatic, sometimes criticising her fellow deities for ‘obsessing in mortal affairs’ – a flaw she lay squarely upon their birth status as mortals, and which she claimed not to share. In her ethos, Urakan gave life to the world, but did not simply make one ‘kind’ of thinking life, the Uruk; he made some beings especially powerful, manifestations of the primal forces of the world, so that he could share their company more as equals; she herself was a manifestation of the oceans, and of magic itself (which her followers believe flows in water, granting the omnipresent liquid life-giving properties).
She taught many of the Empire’s earliest true mages, albeit chaotically; and given that she sometimes claimed to have met (and sometimes still meeting) Urakan himself – a major departure of doctrine from the Empire’s teachings, in which even Bartus and Talras did not meet the Overdeity – she became a divisive figure, with anti-magic political movements forming in direct opposition to her. In the seventh century, such movements came close to the mainstream – and in an unfortunate coincidence, Talras and Bartus also began a power struggle within the Empire at around the same time. Pushed towards taking a side, Kitantha chose to retreat and refuse to take any side; which led to a growing ostracism from the mainstream who began to seriously doubt her ‘sincerity’ as a deity supporting the Empire.
Kitantha’s star fell yet further after revelations of her intimate ‘fraternization’ with certain of her priests; stung into a response at last she made a great effort to cast off and minimise these slurs, but her efforts only lent veracity to the rumours. In 699, the last straw came as a populist priest of Bartus’ made an allegation that Kitantha’s ‘pursuit of men of the cloth’ was the tip of the metaphorical iceberg, and that “no doubt” she had secret harems of sin and debauchery where she spent much of her time in ‘quiet meditation’ about other deities’ “obsessions in mortal affairs”. Kitantha’s response was to repudiate the Imperial pantheon, saying that she “no longer recognised the devoted pursuit of Urakan’s grace that once moved me so deeply” and regretted that it had been replaced by “petty sniping” and “character assassination, even of the Gods”.
She defected again; to the Encyronian peoples across the seas, renouncing her association with the Empire.
This time, though, the effect on her faith was disastrous. Her grand, Imperial temples were torn down or burned, as were some of her followers; the faith became illegal for centuries, and the Empire suffered a major theological crisis over her treason; Bartus’ and Talras’ rivalries, unbalanced, became a destabilising force, and for nearly a great many decades the Encyronians were momentarily on the verge of dominance – but at last the Empire rallied, and utterly destroyed them in a two-century-long conflict that utterly devoted two-thirds of the world’s population to the sporadic but bloody fight. In the end, Encyron fell; and Kitantha’s star with it.
To this day, “Uncovering the secret harem” has become Imperial slang for taunting an opponent into miscalculating; in the Empire it is a widely-assumed fact that it must be true; urban knowledge asserts that Kitantha regularly consorts with Uruk, both male and female; with Dragonborn; with war-wounded amputees; with animals (fish in particular); and some rumours even suggest that she only sometimes cares for the ‘comfort’ of the living. Her followers, of course, deny this as a slur by the very same forces she once decried; and indeed, in many centuries no evidence has emerged. That does not stop people believing it, however – who better than a God to foil mortal investigations?
In the modern era, Kitantha-worship is permitted in the Empire, though she herself boycotts all visits there until an official state apology is made – Bartus’ use of the phrase “Over my dead body”, being an immortal, underlines how likely this is. She still retains strong followings in Goralia, and of course in Kitantha’s Sea – named in her honour by explorers who had her blessing to traverse the great oceans of the world – many colonists are drawn to her faith. There are growing rumours that her criticism of the Empire has given her common ground with the Cyraean Repubic – which remains staunchly non-theistic on the grounds that “all extant deities have supported, or permitted, the suppression and exploitation of the workers”. No doubt if Kitantha openly supported their ethos, they would find strong reason to relent, and her faith might became amongst the most powerful in the world…