|The Gods of Heaven (Aedra Lords)|
|Kammoloth (King of the Gods)|
|Akkala (Healing, Purity)|
|Samekkh (Wisdom, Light, Knowledge)|
|Dokorath (Honor, War, Valor)|
|Velena (Love, Beauty, Truth)|
|Artela (Nature, Mercy)|
|Dvalin (Weather, Agriculture, Wine)|
|Wvelkim (The Sea, Marine Life, Sailing)|
|Yajiit (Fire, The Sun)|
Artela (är-TĀ-lä or är-TĀ-lə) is one of the two nature goddesses in the Pantheon. Neither she nor her sister Lilith completely encompasses the character and spirit of the natural world, but each exists as a mirror image of the other: while Lilith embodies nature "red in tooth and claw", in which competition and predation lead survivors to become stronger, Artela represents nature in its mutualistic aspect, in which individuals and even entirely different species form partnerships that help each other to survive and prosper. The flower that is pollinated by the insect, the fruit that disperses a tree's seeds while providing food to the animal, the algae and fungus that join together to become a lichen that can survive where neither could live separately — all of these embody Artela's ethos that mutualism and cooperation are the foundational principles of the natural world.
Because of her focus on the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of depending on one another for survival, Artela is also the goddess of mercy, for partners must be ready to forgive one another for their mistakes and poor choices if the team as a whole is to prosper.
This focus on cooperation and mutualism should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness, however. While Artela does not find the same sense of primal beauty in predation that Lilith sees, she does recognize that death is a part of life and that carnivores must kill in order to live. She also recognizes that a key part of cooperation is for the members of a community to defend the young and weak among them from those creatures that would do them harm. Artela herself is a skilled archer, and humans and Elves alike revere her as the Goddess of the Hunt; while this is not her favorite role, she accepts it in the hope that those who admire her martial prowess will also learn to follow the rest of her ethos.
Appearance & Personality
Artela most often appears as a wandering scout, with simple and weathered leather jerkin, boots and leggings. She carries a short bow, a hunting knife, and a quiver of magical arrows whose properties are the subject of many dubious and contradictory legends. She has long, braided black hair, dark eyes, and olive skin that seems tanned by years of wandering and exposure. There is a rugged beauty about her.
Artela moves with effortless grace, and everything living seems to be drawn to her presence. Branches reach out to softly brush her cheeks as she passes; rabbits and foxes come out of their holes to greet her. She is a kind and merry soul, but an earthy one as well: she would rather join a group of common travelers for a meal of trail rations and beer around a campfire than take part in an elegant dinner with nobles and Lothanasi priests (or even the other gods). She enjoys playful banter, bawdy jokes, and drinking songs that last long enough to empty the bottle. While she is not a genius of musical talent, she can play the lute, the pipes and various other instruments that are small enough and durable enough to be carried while traveling, and she will readily share a song with anyone she happens to meet in her journeys. The Muses inspire symphonies and operas of astonishing beauty and elegance, but Artela is the author of a thousand witty limericks and off-color ditties that are repeated around the world.
As much as Artela values cooperation and communities in nature, she herself is a restless soul; she is rarely content to remain in her own realm in the Nine Heavens, but wanders throughout the planes wherever her whims take her. She spends more time on the Material Plane than any other member of the Pantheon, and usually goes unrecognized by the mortals she encounters — which is just the way she likes it. She avoids large cities but can often be found in the towns and villages of humans and Elves, sharing a meal and a night of merriment with the locals before heading out on the road again.
When she is not simply enjoying the rhythms of the living world around her, Artela can be found working to protect nature from those who would desecrate it or waste its bounty; the alchemist who pollutes a river with the runoff from his laboratory or the king who cuts down an ancient forest to build his palace will soon find themselves being afflicted with disasters or opposed by the common people of the countryside — people whom Artela has won over with her camaraderie and who are now ready to fight alongside her against those who harm the wild places around them. More often than not, these people never know that they had a goddess among them; when the work is done and the battle over, she disappears as mysteriously as she arrived.
Boons: The primary blessings that Artela can offer are protection and provision for those who are traveling, or for those who are caught out in the wilderness unprepared. Artela and her servants, the nymphs, might quietly guide desperate mortals to food or shelter, or send animals to watch over them and protect them from harm. There are also many stories of her appearing to a person in need and giving them an enchanted arrow that will allow them to accomplish some important task; while some of these stories are no doubt mere fables, they nevertheless do have some basis in fact.
One other little-known boon offered by Artela is one that most mortals would hope that they never need: she serves as the Advocate of the Accused in any meeting of the Celestial Court. When a mortal is brought before Kammoloth to stand trial for some offense against the gods, Artela serves as the mortal's defense attorney, arguing either for the person's innocence or (if guilt is irrefutable) for why the person's life should be spared. Artela has spent more time among humans than any of the other gods, so she is better able to understand human motivations and human character than many of the other members of the Pantheon; it often falls to her to explain how the mortal acted in ignorance, or how his actions were justifiable given the circumstances he was caught in. Artela always argues her case as persuasively as she can; while she cares little for formal protocol, she knows all the laws of the Nine Heavens backwards and forwards and is fully capable of using them to her client's best advantage. Sometimes, of course, even her defense is not enough to convince Kammoloth that a person should be freed, but at least every mortal brought before the gods can take solace in the fact that he will get a fair trial.1
Cost: Like Velena, Artela often bestows her boons on those who have already paid for them through years of reverence and respect for nature. A farmer who treats animals kindly and pays homage to the nymphs living near his home will usually find some unexpected strokes of "good luck" if he should ever find himself far from civilization and in need of food and a safe place to sleep. Artela often draws her payment from mortals without them ever realizing that they are paying her: when that mob of villagers shuts down the alchemist's lab that is polluting the river, they might never guess that the abundant harvest they receive that year is the result of Artela's nymphs repaying them for their good deeds.
If Artela does provide a more direct sort of aid, however, it is likely because she is expecting the mortal to use that aid to accomplish something that is in line with her purposes. An enchanted arrow, for instance, would only be given to someone whom Artela expected to use it to accomplish some important mission that served her plans.
Artela's work as the Advocate of the Accused is always done pro bono; even if her client is exonerated of all charges, she never asks for any sort of payment.
Artela's disciples are numerous (compared to those of other deities) and widespread, and they follow traditions that are well over ten thousand years old. Called druids, most of these disciples form small enclaves in forests, mountain valleys and other remote places. These isolated communities, called groves, resemble the nomadic tribes of the Northlands in some ways: they live in huts or other simple dwellings, venerate their elders as leaders and sages, and send the young men out to hunt while the women stay close to home with the children.
Unlike the tribal Northlanders, however, the druids are far from uneducated about the civilized world, nor do they consider civilization a threat to their way of life. The druids are largely people from civilized backgrounds who chose to live a more primitive way of life, closer to nature, in order to better serve Artela and her purposes in the world. They live as they do in order to help civilized humanity, by learning how to better live in harmony with nature and then preserve that knowledge for future generations. Druids do not cut themselves off from civilization, even though they live apart from it; they appear in the towns at First Planting, at Artela'kema, at harvest time, at the equinoxes and solstices and other important times of the year. Armed with drums, pipes and other simple instruments and wearing garlands of holly, ivy or flowers, they dance and sing their way into town for the festivals, bringing with them the wisdom that will help the farmers to grow better crops, the ranchers to keep their cows and sheep healthy, and the housewives to preserve their food so that it will keep better through the long Midland winters. As they dispense this practical knowledge, they also teach the people the wisdom of Artela, point out the places where the local nymphs live, and warn the villagers if anything they are doing is causing harm to the lands around them. When the festivals are done they return home to their groves, leaving the townsfolk a little wiser and a little more aware of the world they live in.
While the druid groves are the most common form of discipleship for Artela's followers, they are not the only form. Some disciples find themselves taken by the same wanderlust that fills Artela herself, so they travel far and wide in the effort to learn more about themselves and about the goddess who inspires them. Some travel in small groups, others travel alone. Some move through the towns and cities, teaching the word of Artela wherever they find open ears; others live as virtual hermits, quietly guarding the wild places of the world and going months or years without seeing another human soul. These nomadic disciples are often called rangers, for they range over long distances as they follow the calling of their hearts or the inward inspiration of their goddess. They do not possess the rich wisdom and nature-magic of the druids, but they are highly useful to Artela as scouts, messengers, and warriors, and their devotion to their goddess often borders on the fanatical.
Known Druids: There is a druid grove living in the forest southeast of Midtown in the Northern Midlands. Their leader is Ynarria (í-NÄR-ē-ə) Greenhand, a tall and thoughtful woman in her mid-fifties who has long had a cordial relationship with the Lightbringers of Metamor.
Known Rangers: Murikeer.
Offspring and Servants
Artela's most numerous offspring are the nymphs, all of whom are either the direct products or the descendants of Artela's frequent sexual encounters with mortal human and Elven men. She has also had children by Kammoloth and Dokorath (various Celestial Princes and Princesses); by Dvalin (the sylphs); and by Wvelkim (the neriads). Artela draws an energy "tax" from each of her children and their descendants, which grants her additional power compared to the other gods associated with natural forces (i.e., Dvalin, Wvelkim and Yajiit).
In addition to her own offspring, Artela can call on the assistance of the animals and plants all around her, though some creatures pay more heed to Lilith than to her (notably dire wolves, werecreatures and the inhabitants of Lilith's dark forests).
Aura: Generally nothing more than a heady, earthy scent in the air, like the mixture of a dozen types of animal musk along with cinnamon, mint, and floral scents.
Holy Symbol: The Forked Path — usually drawn as three lines radiating out from a common center, enclosed by an equilateral triangle whose vertices lie at the ends of the lines.
Symbolic Creatures: Deer (for gentleness), Falcon (for the hunter), Honeybee (for mutualism and cooperation).
Holy Day: Artela'kema, June 3rd. The Lothanasi ceremony for this holy day can be seen in Rites of Ascendancy, by Raven Blackmane. As noted above, this is also a major day for celebration by druids, who send musicians and dancers (called mummers) into the towns and cities to sing praises to Artela and dispense their wisdom and teachings to the common folk.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Domains: Animal, Fey, Plant, Travel
Weapon of the Deity: Undead-Bane Shortbow