Name(s): Eilistraee The Dark Maiden, Lady of the Dance
Status: Lesser Deity
Symbol: Nude long-haired female drow dancing with a silver bastard sword in front of a full moon
Home Plane: Arvandor (also the Demonweb Pits)
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Portfolio: Song, beauty, dance, swordwork, hunting, moonlight
Worshipers: Good-aligned drow, hunters, surface-dwelling elves
Clerical alignments: CG, CN, NG
Domains: Chaos, Charm, Drow, Elf, Good, Moon, Portal
Favored Weapon: "The Moonsword" (bastard sword)
The patron of good-aligned drow and those of that race who wish to live in the Realms Above in peace, Eilistraee (eil-iss-tray-yee) is a melancholy, moody deity. She is greatly angered by the evil of most drow but glad that some have worked their way free of the Spider Queen's web. Eilistraee is a lover of beauty and peace but is not averse to striking back against those who would harm her followers. She appears as an unclad, glossy-skinned drow woman of great height with ankle-length, sweeping hair of glowing silver.
The church of Eilistraee is little known and poorly understood by inhabitants of the surface world. Few among the surface-dwelling races give any credence to rumors of good-aligned drow emerging from the Underdark. The possibility of a deity who supports such folk is simply beyond the ken of nonelves, who generally dismiss such talk as idle rumor or a plot by evil drow raiders. Most elves willfully ignore such talk, uncomfortable for what it might mean to the central tenets of their culture: Dogma teaches that the Crown Wars were primarily caused by the unbridled evil of the ancestral drow. Only among like-minded groups active in the same regions as the church of Eilistraee has the faith begun to be recognized for the hope that it holds out. In particular, the Harpers have begun secretly supporting the church of the Dark Maiden and work toward the day when it is fully accepted throughout Faerûn.
Clerics of the Dark Maiden pray for spells at night, after moonrise, singing them whenever possible. Their rituals revolve around a hunt followed by a feast, dancing (wearing as little clothing as possible), and a Circle of Song. This last is held preferably in a wooded glade on a moonlit night, in which the worshipers sit and dance by turns in a circle, each one leading a song. Worshipers of Eilistraee try to let out all the gathered emotions of the day with an evensong. This is a personal thing, often wordless, and done in private. Clerics of the Dark Maiden who have the coin to do so are expected to hire any strange minstrel or bard they meet for a song or two; lay worshipers are encouraged but not required to do so.
Eilistraee's church observes a number of festivals. The Sword Dance is a ritual of shedding a small amount of blood and invoking Eilistraee's favor to prevent a blade from breaking or rusting for the next three months. The High Hunt, celebrated at least once each season, is a nocturnal pursuit of a dangerous beast or monster, led by clerics of Eilistraee. By tradition, the hunters may use any bladed weapons and wear anything—except the clerics, who go naked, each carrying only a single sword. If the quarry is slain, the celebrants chant prayers and perform a circle dance to the deity. At least once a year, clerics of Eilistraee undertake a Run. Those who are not drow blacken their bodies with natural dyes and oils, and all, drow or not, boil certain leaves and berries to make their hair silvery. They then go wandering on the surface world, trusting to their music, kind ways, and sword skills to keep from being slain on sight. They go where they are strangers, making an effort to seek out elven communities, and bring them game, succor, and helping hands. They try to learn new songs, music, and sword ways, and do not come to preach their faith or make a mark for themselves.
In the end, all clerics of the Dark Maiden who do not die in battle hold their greatest ritual, the Last Dance. In their old age, they hear Eilistraee singing to them by night, calling them to her. When the song feels right, they go out unclad under the moonlit sky and dance—never to be seen again. Those who have observed such dances say that the deity appears and sings overhead, and the aged cleric begins to dance more effortlessly, looking younger and younger. Her hair begins to glow with the same radiance as the Dark Maiden's, and then she becomes slowly translucent, fading away as the dance goes on. In the end, only a silvery radiance is seen, with two voices—the deity and her cleric—raised together in melancholy, tender song. Eilistraee's clerics often multiclass as fighters, bards, rangers, or sword dancers (see Chapter 4).
The daughter of Corellon Larethian and Araushnee (who later became Lolth), and the sister of Vhaeraun, Eilistraee was banished along with the other drow deities for her (inadvertent) role in the war against the Seldarine. Despite being absolved of any crime, Eilistraee insisted upon this punishment from her reluctant father, because she foresaw that the dark elves would need a beacon of good within their reach. Her allies are the Seldarine, Mystra, Selûne, and the good deities of the Underdark races; her enemies are the evil deities of the Underdark, especially the rest of the drow pantheon.
Be always kind, except in battle with evil. Encourage happiness everywhere. Learn and teach new songs, dances, and the flowing dance of skilled swordwork. Promote harmony between the races. Befriend strangers, shelter those without homes, and feed the hungry. Repay rudeness with kindness. Repay violence with swift violence so that those who cause it are quickly dealt with. Aid drow in distress and give them the Lady's message: "A rightful place awaits you in the Realms Above, in the Land of the Great Light. Come in peace and live beneath the sun again where trees and flowers grow."
Clergy and Temples
Whenever and wherever possible, faithful of Eilistraee encourage drow to return to the surface world. They work to promote harmony between drow and surface-dwelling races, to establish drow as rightful, nonevil inhabitants of Faerûn. They nurture beauty, music, the craft of making musical instruments, and song wherever they find it; assist hunters and hunting; and help others in acts of kindness whenever they see ways to do so. Clerics are expected to be skilled in hunting and in playing at least one of the Dark Maiden's favored instruments (horn, flute, or harp). They must be adequate singers as well as fit, graceful dancers. They gather songs and musical knowledge constantly, and acquire training in the use of the sword when they can. Temples of the Dark Maiden are typically established in the mouths of dark caverns and in dim forests on the surface world from which her clerics can venture forth at night to brave the moonlight. It is rare for clergy of Eilistraee to found a temple below the surface. The Dark Maiden's clergy seek out pristine, natural sites that need little modification. These places of worship are developed much like those dedicated to the Seldarine. Temple complexes typically include a glade in which to dance, offering an unobstructed view of the moon, and a sheltered place away from the light of day (often an access tunnel to the Underdark). Other common features are a thick tree canopy, a lively freshwater stream, a forge and smithy, and a vein of iron or some other metal suitable for the crafting of swords. However, the simplest shrine of the Dark Maiden requires naught but a moonlit glade and a song (audible or imagined) that draws one into a dance.
Clerics of Eilistraee wear their hair long and dress practically for whatever they are currently doing. For rituals, they wear as little as possible. Otherwise, they tend to wear soft leathers for hunting, aprons while cooking, and—rarely—armor when battle is expected. When relaxing, they favor silvery, diaphanous gowns. Most clerics prefer holy symbols of silver, typically worn as pins or hung around the neck on slender silver or mithral chains.
The church of Eilistraee has little in the way of formal hierarchy. Its congregants tend to gather in small, independent bands in deep forests across Faerûn. One individual is acknowledged as the high cleric of the faith, however: Qilué Veladorn, Chosen of Eilistraee, Chosen of Mystra, and one of the Seven Sisters. Her authority is a subtle one, her words taken by most members of the faith as advice from a wise elder sister.