The Trifold Goddess is not a single deity, but an alliance of three entities who share power and act in concert — mostly. They have a few collective names: the Shield, Torch and Hammer; the Maiden, Mother and Matron…and the Slag, Nag and Hag. Generally neutral when it comes to relations with other deities, and indifferent to political, religious or cultural affiliations when offering their blessings to mortals, they are considered trustworthy by most of Halci’s mainland cultures and allowed to operate in peace. The Risen Phoenix Empire is an exception to this rule, but even within the Empire’s borders, Trifold temples and active clergy can be found.
Divine policy forbids proselytizing, requires the provision of aid and shelter to anyone who requests it (and who does not thereafter violate the hospitality bond), bans violence against the defenseless and imposes strictures on personal wealth and possessions. For lay followers, these policies are recommendations; for clergy, they are law.
Each of the three goddesses oversees a different subset of the faithful and imposes different deity-specific rules upon her direct followers, but all Trifolders are expected to uphold the core values of Charity, Mercy and Hospitality. Additionally, there is no central bureaucracy dictating policy for the whole faith; each temple is autonomous, with its Mother Matriarch in communion with the goddess on spiritual matters but allowed to independently dictate other aspects of the temple’s life in accordance with local customs and needs. Thus while some Trifold temples are large (though plain) edifices dedicated only to the Trifold, others have prayer-rooms and holy spaces for other local deities, while still other temples serve as orphanages, inns or taverns, boarding houses — even cathouses (with certain caveats).
Every temple will have representatives of the three goddesses, but not always in the same proportion. Regardless, the leader of the temple will always be a Mother Matriarch of Brigydde — the goddess whose power is the linchpin of the faith.
More details below.
Name: Brigydde the Hearth Mother
Other Names: Vrin gih Dha (Truth Through Enlightenment); Brigga Ecaeline; the Torch; the Seer; the Mother of Humanity; Godbringer; Tamer of Beasts
Apotheosis: Upon her (apparent) execution in the year 467 of the Ogre Dominion, approximately 4,300 years ago.
Domain: Halci. Though she is not permitted to manifest due to the Gods’ Pact, she is said to live ‘in the bodies of her priestesses’ and may operate in a distributed manner, her full power rarely brought to bear within a single follower but always present.
History: In brief, she was the slave and concubine of an ogrish nobleman during the Ogre Dominion, who bore children for him as well as for her common-law human husband. Struck blind by her master’s abuses, she began to hear a celestial voice — that of the haelhene wraith Kuthrallan Vanyaris, a mage and experimenter upon humans — and in following his directions she accidentally gained the ability to see the branchings of potential futures. She used this new talent to aid her fellow slaves and soon became a hero to the downtrodden human and halfblood populace, which drew the wrath of the ogre overlords. By the time the ogres acted against her, however, she had so much of a following that it is said she ascended to godhood right before her execution could be carried out — borne up by the faith of her followers.
While the facts are disputed, she did apotheosize — though not in full until after a series of fiery manifestations. It is also thought that her rise to godhood triggered the awakening of the other deities, thus making her indirectly responsible for the ensuing godswars.
Clergy: Entry into the Brigyddian clergy is restricted to women who are currently or have previously been mothers and who have not yet gone through menopause — women who have demonstrated their fertility and continue to possess it. This includes women who became pregnant but failed to bring a child to term. While outsiders often look upon this as a mandate from the Temple, it actually comes from the goddess herself; her presence within her clergy alters them to be more like her, thus she chooses to only accept clergy who are already like her so as not to accidentally harm them. Additionally, because the goddess is blind, she can transmit her blindness (and her visions) to those priestesses who bond with her most firmly, or to those who channel her for a particularly vital end (such as saving a life). Therefore, she accepts only those clergy who are willing to risk that loss.
Lay followers have no restrictions beside adhering to the core values of the Trifold.
The lead Brigyddian in any temple’s district is called the Mother Matriarch, who will also be the automatic head of the whole Trifold in that area no matter the Breanan and Branciran branches’ relative sizes. Other priestesses are simply called Mother (or Sister, when between Brigyddians). There is very little hierarchy.
Manifestation: Brigydde no longer manifests as a separate entity, instead infusing one of her priestesses with as much of her essence as that priestess can bear. This causes temporary or permanent blindness in the priestess depending on the reason and duration of the manifestation, with the entirety of both eyes going white (iris and pupil included); a halo or aura of heat, phantasmal flame or real fire; a clear but sourceless radiance filling the area; and the occasional bout of prophecy or accidental levitation.
Name: Breana the Sword Maiden
Other Names: Brea Eranine; the Shield; the Lady’s Martyr; Bearer of the Fallen; Bright Dreamer; Nightmare Hunter
Apotheosis: Upon her death in Brigydde’s service in the year 497 of the New Count (post Gods’ Pact), 1401 years ago.
Domain: Halci. Like Brigydde, Breana has no realm and does not manifest, instead being present inside all of her followers to some degree.
History: A Brigyddian lay-follower during the early years of the Great War of Empires, Breana went to war in the guise of a man to try to steer her homeland’s army away from atrocity. As an Altaeran, she was expected to follow the stricter God of Law, and with the enemy being the minions of Daenivar — the wicked demigod of nightmares and ‘son’ of the goddess of frenzy and bloodshed — the Altaeran/Lisalhanian front was often a bloodbath. In the midst of this, her army company apprehended a group of Lisalhanian civilians attempting to flee the conflict zone, and when her commander ordered them to be executed, she refused and rallied some of her fellow soldiers to peacefully resist. They were all executed along with the Lisalhanians.
Despite the outcome, Brigydde appreciated what Breana had tried to do and raised her into her service as a deific aide. Her example brought more idealistic young women — and men — into the faith as the Great War got swiftly out of hand, and in the years after the Sealing Disasters, her sub-faith swelled with able-bodied young people praying for help in rebuilding their shattered lands. Though some religious scholars suspect that she is in fact a composite of many young men and women who sacrificed themselves for Brigyddian ideals during the Great War, none have been able to investigate the theory.
Clergy: Like Brigydde, Breana is present in all of her priests to some degree, but because of her gender-bending time in the Altaeran army (or because of her composite nature, if the scholars are believed), she accepts men as well as women into her clergy. Because she gained her godhood through Brigydde, she is still subordinate to the Hearth Mother, so that if any of her female clergy become pregnant, they automatically become Brigyddians; thus the Breanan clergy have become quite skilled with birth control. Actual maidenhood is not required to follow the Sword Maiden.
The lead Breanan in any Trifold enclave is called the Sister Sentinel — or Brother Sentinel, as it can be a man — and sometimes the Lady/Lord of the Sword (or Shield). Other Breanans are addressed as Sister or Brother, but unlike the Brigyddians, the Breanans do hold to a strict hierarchy. Ranks can vary between temples; there has been on-and-off work done to formalize such details across the faith, but with the autonomy of each temple, it has been difficult. Breanans from different temples like to argue about it when they meet.
Though technically the military arm of the Trifold, the Breanans are not trained for outright war. Their priorities are defense and rescue, and they are more often found on bucket-brigades or helping to haul wagons out of mud than marching around the streets with swords on.
Manifestation: Breana only manifests through her clergy, but her presence is not as physiologically conformative as Brigydde’s, making no changes to her followers’ bodies. In fact, it can be difficult to tell that she has manifested, especially if several of her clergy are in the same area: she prefers to infuse all Breanans in the area with a combination of vigor, mental clarity, synchrony and environmental awareness, similar to but far stronger than a mentalist gestalt. Breanans in the vicinity of her manifestation will act as if guided by a single omnipotent hand and often remember nothing once the event has passed.
In cases of single Breanans, the goddess is known to manifest physical objects — swords, shields and armor — or auras that serve as such, as well as Brigydde’s heat-aura. She may also possess her priestess and fight in their stead, taking all wounds with her when she leaves.
As Brigydde and Breana are both technically cheating the Gods’ Pact when they possess their followers, they will not do so when confronting the clergy of another god or spirit.
Name: Brancir the Forge Matron
Other Names: Brancir Etracine; the Hammer; the Silver One; the Crone of the Thundercloaks; Magebane; Mother Justice
Awakening: Brancir was split from the traumatized essence of Metal at the disastrous moment of contact between the metal folk’s spires and the Scouring Light approximately 5,000 years ago.
Domain: Halci — specifically the subterranean territories of the metal folk. As an elemental spirit and the half of Metal that refuses to touch magic, she can neither perceive nor contact non-terrestrial realms.
History: Brought into being by the catastrophe that nearly destroyed metal-kind and drove a wedge between the two surviving halves of the race, Brancir spent a long time struggling to clean up the mess she had been left. This included relentlessly hunting her ‘brother’ Ciaures, patron of the magic-using metals, as well as fighting any wraiths she could find and persecuting the human mages that came next. The Great War of Empires only helped confirm her hatred of magic, as Ciaures allied with Daenivar the Nightmare-Weaver to inflict terror and madness upon her people — who, as dreamless elementals, had never known nightmares before.
When Brigydde and new-risen Breana came to the aid of her afflicted enclaves, Brancir threw in with them in the hopes of stopping the catastrophe Ciaures and Daenivar had planned for the whole world. Though they were unsuccessful — the Portal was opened, which led to the Seals and their subsequent disasters — the three decided to continue their alliance to better stabilize their parts of the world.
After the murder of the God of Law less than two centuries ago, Brancir took up his shield, which became the Aegis of Justice and gave her a portion of his power and authority. She now enforces the Gods’ Pact — even upon Brigydde and Breana, when they circumvent it through their possessive manifestations.
Followers: All magicless silver elementals (also known as Muriae) and many non-silver metal elementals are bound to Brancir, as she is their spirit. Additionally, since the other recipients of the God of Law’s pieces were the Nemesis and Loahravi the Blood Goddess, the few survivors of Law’s faith dedicated themselves to Brancir just so they would not be influenced by those dire forces. These add to her large following of artisan layfolk to create a three-pronged faith dedicated to justice, the eradication of magic and the progress of technology.
Unfortunately, the second part creates friction between her faith and that of Brigydde — who has her prophetic visions by the influence of magic and also requires Trifolders to shelter anyone who asks and spare anyone who surrenders, mage or otherwise. Brancir’s followers, particularly the elementals, sometimes can not help themselves from lashing out, and are punished by the goddess but also give the faith a bad name among mage-using governments — which is all of them. Branciran technology also conflicts directly with the Artificing style of magic, which has resulted in open warfare between the two groups in the past. For this reason, most Branciran tech remains underground — literally, either in elemental enclaves or among their goblin allies, with very little of it percolating up to the humans on the surface. Branciran clergy are both aware of their prejudices and all-but-overpowered by them, which has led to the Brigyddians keeping them nearly as underground.
The ranking Branciran in an enclave is the Brother/Sister Justiciar, below whom is a network of apprenticeships and masters (for the craftsfolk), knights and squires (for the justiciars), and elemental brethren always scuffling for position. No one has ever managed to design a cohesive system that all three groups will accept, and so they stand together but separate — much like the Trifold itself.
Manifestation: Unlike her allied goddesses, Brancir is allowed to manifest because of her status as an elemental — though that has been called into question since her assumption of the Aegis of Justice and a bit of Law’s godhood. Regardless, her manifestation is usually either an assemblage of spare metal bits from the environment, or an entire vein of native metal rearing up from the ground to take on her preferred humanoid shape. She does not manifest through her human clergy, though in the presence of many metal elementals she does have the ability to take over and temporarily alloy them together to form her body. The Aegis materializes on its own once she has completed her self-construction.
Edit: An old reference/fun picture I made from a character-generator back before some of the details of the goddesses (including Breana’s name) were finalized.