The most loved of all Ashani gods is Alqawen the SwanMother. She is served by an order of priests and priestesses as well as shamans and other religious classes. The Selviliya (Ash. 'Swan Daughter') is the leader of all these priest/esses. Traditionally the Selviliya lives in the Ashani stronghold of Yarathera (Ash. 'Twilight Home' or 'Dwelling of the Dusk') where she leads the sacred rituals of the faith. The Selviliya is always an Ashani woman; in all history there has never been a male chosen to fill the role, nor has a non-Ashani ever been elected to the position.
According to legend the goddess Alqawen can manifest within the body of the Selviliya and interact directly with mortals. This is a very rare occurance. The last time Alqawen manifested through the Selviliya was during an attack on Yarathera over a century ago. While the office is not a political one per se the Selviliya tends to wield great political influence among both the Ashani and those kingdoms which seek alliances with them. In most cases the Selviliya, if she becomes involved with mortal politics, becomes a sort of arbitrator and advocate among kings and queens, rather than a fellow ruler. Despite this, she is the essential leader of Yarathera but often delegates specific responsibilities to advisors and trusted allies.
The current Selviliya is Kyriana Alqaviliya, a powerful Ashani mage and priestess.
While holding the seat of Selviliya the Swandaughter surrenders her surname or any other title with the exception of one's first name. The title 'Alqaviliya' (Ash. 'Alqawen's Swan' or 'Alqawen's Scion') instead functions as surname. Upon leaving the office--either through surrendering it or through death--the Selviliya again regains her surname and is referred to that way. For example, Lady Lalwen Erethar, upon becoming Selviliya, was known as Lalwen Alqaviliya until her death, at which time she became known as Lady Lalwen Erethar once more.
Relationship With the Knights of the GriffonEdit
Historically the people of Keledon always held a sort of reverence for the Selviliya. In days long ago she was considered a sort of goddess or powerful spirit walking upon the earth (like the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian tales). In recent centuries this reverence lessened as the last Selviliya, Lalwen Erethar, chose to limit her involvement in the affairs of other peoples. However following her death her successor, Kyriana Alqaviliya, chose to reforge the bond between her office and the Keledoni people. Kyriana was a long time friend of Dale of Havan--a former adventurer and founder of the Knights of the Griffon--and the two forged an agreement between them. From among their Order the knights choose a noble and powerful knight who is then dispatched to Yarathera to serve the Selviliya. In exchange, the Selviliya selects one of her priestesses, who is then dispatched to Griffon Keep to minister to the spiritual needs of the knights. The bond between the two is considered sacred and none are permitted to interfere with the selection of either knight or priestess. Currently, the young knight Curudan of House Kurdwyn serves as Captain of the Selviliya's guard, while the wise and beautiful Ashani priestess Sabell ministers to the knights of the Order.
Some among the people of Keledon have questioned the wisdom of including an Ashani priestess among the Griffon Knights, rather than a good, local Druid. Among these critics it is generally forgotten that Order of the Black Stag represents knightly druidry in the kingdom.
When the Selviliya dies the senior priesthood of the Lady gather in Yarathera for the internment of her body. Once this has been accomplished and the attendant ceremonies performed, they gather in council to perform the Song of Seeking on the shores of a lake lit by the full moon. This ritual involves a long, elaborate song that mourns the old Swandaughter and cries out for the presence of the new one. When the song is complete, the gathered priesthood meditate by the shores, waiting for the Lady to provide a sign. The details of this sign, and its interpretation, are guarded secrets of the priesthood, but it is said that the spirit of the departed Selviliya comes to reveal the will of Alqawen. When the sign has been given and interpreted two delegates are sent to find the individual named in the vision, who may or may not be a member of the priesthood. The new Selviliya is brought to Yarathera, where she undergoes a further test. Traditionally, before her death, the Selviliya provides a question and answer to a trusted individual. The question is one whose answer is unknown to others. The newly chosen is asked the question and is provided the answer through the 'whisper of the Lady'. When it has been answered correctly, the Investment begins. In a ceremony that lasts two full days and nights the new Selviliya visits several sites in Yarathera and is annointed by representatives of each of the three major Ashani peoples and their specific spiritual traditions--the shamanic Emenashani, the devotive Korashani and the contemplative Rendashani. Finally, she is invested with the regalia of the Selviliya, and takes her place as the representative of Alqawen on Aralath.
There are several items associated with the office of Selviliya. Each is both a badge and sign of authority and, according to the tales of the bards, a mighty and powerful magical item.Firstly, the Ring of Selviliya was wrought in the form of a swan of platinum. Its wings rise upwards to form a point, and the band is carved with an elegant, open pattern. The same ring has been borne by each Selviliya for uncounted centuries and appears in even ancient depictions of Selviliyas from much older days. The ring, it is said, resizes itself for each new wearer but cannot abide the touch of one not blessed by the Lady herself. According to legends it has the power to call forth spirits from other worlds, cloak them in the substance of our own, and bind them to the service of the Selviliya. Secondly is the Staff of Alqawen. Carved from wood and strengthened by the magic of Alqawen, the staff is just over five and a half feet tall. It's top is carved in the shape of a swan's head, with gems set within its eyes and upon its forehead. The beak is fashioned from a single, large and expertly shaped piece of andalusite, set into jet. Around the body of the staff is a leather band, to which are attached three pure white feathers. It is said these come from thewings of the Lady herself. The staff is the central piece of the Selviliya's regalia and has been borne by every holder of that title for years uncounted. Early Alindorean tales contain mention of the staff, making it at the very least three thousand years old. Many legends and songs associate the Staff with many magical powers. Within living memory the power of the staff was unleashed during an attack upon Yarathera by the army of the dread necromancer, Súlomyn the Black. Veterans of that battle recall the staff glowing with unbearable light, driving away thhe storm and blasting armed foes into dust.
Thirdly, the Lady's Mantle is a cloak made anew for each Selviliya. It is a soft, white garment embroidered with a subtle pattern that gives the appearance of feathers in movement. It is said that when a new Selviliya is chosen that the swans of Yarathera come to pay her homage, each laying a feather at her feet. These feathers are tied into a mesh and magically shaped into the Mantle. Legends claim the cloak can conceal the form of its wearer and allows her to travel through the waters of the world as if born to them.