||This a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game-related article describes a fictional deity in a primarily in-universe style. (December 2011)|
|Title(s)||The Dark Maiden, The Dark Dancer, Lady of the Dance, Lady Silverhair, Moon Maiden, Dancing Goddess, Dark Lady, The Masked Lady (as of the 1480s DR, Eilistraee no longer holds this last title, which she earned when she took over her brother's -Vhaeraun- portfolio, as both of them are alive, but separate entities once again)|
|Portfolio||Song, beauty, dance, swordwork, hunting, moonlight|
Eilistraee, also referred to as "The Dark Maiden," is a fictional deity in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. In the game world, she is a goddess in the drow pantheon, and her portfolios are song, swordwork, hunting, the moon and beauty. Her worshippers are good-aligned drow hoping to escape the Underdark's evil, Lolth-worshipping matriarchal society, and regain a place in the surface world.
She is worshipped by song and dance, if at all possible, in the surface world under the moonlit night among the woods. She takes great pleasure in bards learning new songs, craftsmen at work, and the doing of kindhearted deeds. Among her followers are drow, humans, gnomes, elves, shapeshifters (children of the moon), half-orcs and half-elves[original research?].
Eilistraee is represented by a drow female in the nude, dancing with a silver sword under the moon. The Dark Maiden's home plane is the Demonweb Pits, along with the rest of the drow pantheon, which was originally located in the 66th layer of the Abyss; however, following the events of The War of the Spider Queen, the Demonweb Pits are no longer part of the Abyss, but a separate plane in its own right. She, however, has a home at Arvandor where she does not have to contend with her mother. It is currently believed that Eilistraee rarely even visits the Demonweb Pits.
Eilistraee, the daughter of Corellon Larethian and of Araushnee (who after being punished by Corellon assumed the name Lolth) was cast down along with the rest of the drow pantheon for her apparent part in the war against the Seldarine. Once she was cleared of any wrongdoing, she insisted to her father that she be punished in the same manner as her sibling Vhaeraun and mother. She realized that the drow people would later need an escape from the malevolent priestesses of Lolth.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)
Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2007)
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014)
Eilistraee's followers are fairly small in number, and frequently met with distrust from both the generally drow-fearing outside world, and followers of evil drow deities such as Lolth. They have only gained steady acceptance in small areas, particularly High Forest and Waterdeep. The most well-known temple to Eilistraee, the Promenade, is located near Skullport under the city. The other places of worship are shrines with only a small number of priestesses and warriors, located in areas like the Gray Forest. They are working on both making their presence known and dispelling fears, as well as trying to convince evil drow to abandon their ways and join them.
The clergy of Eilistraee are collectively known as "the Dark Ladies", although individual temples often have their own naming conventions for both the clergy collectively and individual titles[who?]. Young initiates and acolytes are known as Maids. Individual titles vary greatly from temple to temple, but some suitable examples include Moon Dancer, Moon Singer, Dark Huntress, Argent Maid, Living Sword, Unsheathed Blade, Sword Smith, Bright Edge of Darkness, Darksong Knight, Protector and Ghost of the Moonstruck Night.
Priestesses of Eilistraee have no ceremonial garb; instead, they aim to wear as little as possible during their official ceremonies. When relaxing, they prefer silver, diaphanous gowns. The holy symbols of the faith vary, and include a silver sword pendant the size of a hand, a silver bastard sword outlined against a silver moon with silvery filaments, and a nude long-haired female drow dancing with a silver sword in front of a full moon. These are often worn as a pin or hung around the neck by means of a slender silver or mithril chain. Recent events show that the faith of Eilistraee is opening up to male priests, despite the initial dislike of the female worshipers[original research?].
One of the highest rites and ceremonies of Eilistraee is 'The Hunt'. The followers of the Dark Maiden take up their blessed weapons after stripping themselves of armor and clothing, under the light of the full moon, they hunt a chosen animal (and in some more violent cases, orcs, werekin or other such fiends that threaten the safety of the surrounding area and its occupants). Ceremoniously, they partake in something of a dance as they chase down the animal (or fiend) and sacrifice it in the name of their Deity. If it is an animal that they chose, the body is usually dressed and prepared as a meal for the partakers in The Hunt. The meal is followed with a celebration of song and dance in praise of Eilistraee and of the earth and moon.
Two of the most popular Eilistraee followers in the Forgotten Realms novels are Liriel Baenre and Qilué of The Seven Sisters. Halisstra Melarn, the Lady Pentinent, was also a priestess of the Dark Maiden during the Silence of Lolth.
In the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, Eilistraee's followers stand at the forefront of the ragtag rebel army's fight against the evil Valsharess. A mysterious priestess of Eilistraee known as the Seer leads a small band of Eilistraeen drow in an abandoned Lolthian temple, located in the Underdark port city of Lith My'athar.
The Lady Penitent trilogy
In book 1, Sacrifice of the Widow, Eilistraee slays Vhaeraun and acquires his portfolio and thus many of his priests. Cavatina Xarann, a Darksong Knight, recovers the Crescent Blade and uses it to slay Selvetarm, Lolth's champion.
In book 2, Storm of the Dead, Vhaeraun's clergy have been warily accepted into Eilistraee's faith, and the goddess now is known as the Masked Lady. A small faction of Vhaeraun's remaining clerics believe that, instead, Vhaeraun slew Eilistraee and is masquerading as her. A mixed force of Eilistraee's Protectors, Nightshadows and drow wizards go on a raid on the main temple of Kiaransalee, the drow death goddess. High magic is used to erase Kiaransalee's name from memory, causing the goddess' death from lack of worship. Qilué, uncharacteristically, orders the slaughter of the helpless former cultists of Kiaransalee.
In book 3, Ascendancy of the Last, the Promenade is beset by the cultists and oozes of Ghaunadaur. The attackers have been baited by uncontented Nightshadows and the Balor, Wendonai, acting through the Crescent Blade and Qilué. In the ensuing battle the Promenade and the followers of Eilistraee are almost annihilated and Ghaunadaur's followers are rendered feebleminded. Qilué and Eilistraee try to save the entire drow race from Wendonai's taint but fail and are both killed by Halisstra Melarn. Meanwhile Q'arlynd Melarn succeeds in re-transforming the descendants of Miyeritar and followers of Eilistraee from drow to dark elves, whereafter Corellon Larethian takes this new elven subrace under his protection.
Despite Halisstra's actions, it is possible that Eilistraee wasn't truly killed. When the Lady Penitent used the Crescent Blade against Qilué Veladorn, the latter was being inhabited by the Dark Maiden, basically becoming an avatar (since deities cannot fully manifest themselves on the material pane ). That would mean that the blade didn't hit the goddess herself, but a part of her essence infused in her chosen's body (albeit probably one holding much of the goddess' power). Another point is that deities can only be truly killed while in their planar realm or by being starved of followers, therefore Eilistraee's survival cannot be excluded a priori. Furthermore the Crescent Blade could not destroy souls anymore after being reforged, as it is shown by Cavatina Xarann's soul surviving it.
During the 1480s DR, with the event known as the Sundering, the Overgod Ao separates the twin worlds Abeir and Toril once again and rewrites the Tablets of Fate (an artifact which contains the name of every deity of the pantheon and their portfolio), restoring many of the formerly fallen deities of Toril to life. Post-Sundering, Eilistraee is alive again and she is one of the deities with whom the returned Mystra is currently sharing the Weave (as revealed in Ed Greenwood's novel Spellstorm (June 2015) through a reflection about Mystra's incarnation in the present time "[...]Twas no easy thing, being the goddess of magic. A different deity than the rest, in a world so steeped in the Art, a divinity that had to care more for mortals, or embrace utter tyranny. And at the same time share the Weave - the Weave that was Mystra, as well as being so much more - with other deities, or what remained of them, like Eilistraee[...]").
- Candlekeep Forums, Questions for Ed Greenwood (2015)
- Greenwood, Ed. The Drow of the Underdark (TSR, 1991)
- McComb, Colin. On Hallowed Ground (TSR, 1996)
- Boyd, Eric L. Demihuman Deities (TSR, 1998)
- Perkins, Christopher. Warriors of Heaven (TSR, 1999)
- Greenwood, Ed; Reynolds, Sean K.; Williams, Skip (2001). Forgotten Realms: Campaign Setting. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Boyd, Eric L., and Erik Mona. Faiths and Pantheons (Wizards of the Coast, 2002).
- Ed Greenwood (June 2015) Spellstorm (Wizards of the Coast)
- Colin McComb (1996). On Hallowed Ground. (TSR, Inc) p.41
- Colin McComb (1996). On Hallowed Ground. (TSR, Inc) p.43
- Lisa Smedman (June 2008). Ascendancy of the Last. (Wizards of the Coast)
- Chosen of Eilistraee: Drow & Eilistraee fansite
- Eilistraee The Dark Maiden, Lady of the Dance (from Wizards of the Coast)
- http://www.eilistraee.org/ Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden fansite