Sharess

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Sharess symbol.jpg
Aliases Bast, Bastet, Felidae, Zandilar the Dancer[1]; see also Feleis
Symbol Sharess - feminine lips; Bast - a cat's head wearing delicate golden hoop earrings[1]
Titles The Dancing Lady, the Festhall Madam, the Lustful Mistress (or Maiden), Feline of Felicity, Succubus of Sensation, the Tawny Temptress, Foe of Set, the Feline Huntress, Lady of the Golden Heart, [1] Princess of Passion, Lady of Lust
Power Level Lesser Goddess
Home Plane Arborea > Olympus/Arvandor[3] > Brightwater[4]
Alignment Chaotic Good[1]
Portfolio Hedonism, excess, lust, sensual fulfillment, festhalls, cats, pleasure seekers[1]
Worshipers Escorts[10], the decadent rich, pleasure seekers, those who battle Set
Worshiper Alignments Any[1]
Cleric Alignments CG, CN, NG; sometimes TN, rarely and briefly NE & CE[1]
Domains Chaos, Charm, Good, Travel, Trickery[5]
Amia Domains Chaos Charm Good Protection Travel Trickery [1]
Favored Weapon A great cat's paw (claw bracer)[5]
A Vision of Sharess ~ The Dancing Lady

Description

Sharess (shah-ress) is a radiantly beautiful goddess, rivaled only by Sune. [1][6] Her favorite manifestation is that of an unseen caress whose contact brings uncontrolled shuddering rapture and intensifies all pleasurable sensations. She can appear as any creature's most passionate desire through a sort of divine illusion. As the Lady of the Golden Heart (not to be confused with Hanali Celanil, known as Lady Goldheart), she manifests as a voluptuous, bronze-skinned human female with long wavy raven hair and the slitted green eyes of a cat. She dresses in provocative clothing ranging from that of a tawdry tart to a pampered concubine. This is also the form she appears in as Bast in Mulhorand, though there she wears local garb and is often depicted with the head of a cat. Her fingernails are deceptively delicate, but are sharp and deadly as the claws of a hunting cat. As the Feline Huntress, she is a huge tawny house cat with razor sharp claws, wickedly gleaming emerald eyes, and a sensuous aspect. When she assumes the form of Zandilar the Dancer, she is a beautiful and seductive blue-skinned elven woman dressed in layered gauzy outfits. She is also known to manifest as a pair of disembodied, floating female lips as big across as a human head. The sign of her presence may linger for days as a perfumed scent.[1]

Her voice is said to be a throaty purr and to give the listener the feeling he or she is being brushed by the softest fur or velvet when she speaks. She is a fickle, flighty deity who prevents anyone from getting too close to her true spirit. She has the willful independence and pleasure-seeking nature common to felines and is constantly preening and grooming to maintain her appearance.[1][6] She was originally a Mulhorandi war goddess and a champion in the war against Set and his forces of evil. Now, however, she is a goddess of passion and sex who is more often referred to as the Festhall Madam than the Foe of Set.[7] Sharess enjoys toying with beautiful mortals - male and female - and she cannot resist casually flirting with anyone she encounters. However, when her ardor cools and her passion is sated, Sharess is easily distracted and quick to move on to new pleasures.[1]

She can see through the eyes of all cats at all times, her kiss can reverse a being's gender, and she can fall from any distance and land on her feet, unharmed. She shows her favor through the presence of cats, doppelgangers in pleasing shapes, dryads (or satyrs), good and neutral sirines, elven cats, tressyms, and a few (very rare) nonevil alu-fiends who act in accordance with her philosophy of life. She enjoys sumptuous jewelry, gourmet foods, and things of beauty and may grant a boon to anyone who sacrifices such things to her. She dislikes snakes intensely.[1]

Sharess's holy symbol is the image of feminine lips carved from dark amber or ruby and worn on a golden chain on the wrist or ankle. The holy symbol of Bast is a cat's head wearing golden hoop earrings.[1]

Dogma

Sharess's priests are expected to live their lives in the decadent sensual fulfillment of themselves and others.[1][6] Pleasure is to be sought out at every opportunity and life is to be lived as one endless revel. Initiates to the faith are taught that "Life is to be lived to its fullest.[1] That which is good is pleasurable and that which is pleasurable is good. Spread the bounty of the Goddess so that all may join in the Endless Revel of Life and bring joy to all those in pain. Infinite experiences await those who would explore, so try the new as well as savoring the old."[1][6] This dictum has been extended by the Amian High Priestess Xaviera Xuider Xee to include the following points:

  • Pleasure is the gift of Sharess and free to all, so bring happiness to all those who seek it, and joy to all those in pain.
  • Life is an endless revel, so seek out pleasure at every opportunity, savouring the old and sampling the new.
  • A life without pleasure is a life not lived, for pleasure is the path through life, and pain the door to death.
  • There is no limit to the Goddess' blessing, so let none restrict your freedom to enjoy Her bounty.
  • A pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled, but to take without consent is the worst of thefts.

Philosophy

The Cleric of Sharess is the ultimate sensualist. She loves to feel and experience what life has to offer - textures, temperatures, tastes, smells and pleasures. Footrubs and backrubs and scratchings of both herself and others. She’ll walk naked into fierce storms to feel the rain or snow lashing her. She’ll try new cuisine with odd combinations of sweet and bitter tastes. Combing hair, stroking and grooming and other such activities are all things good clerics of Sharess do without hesitation or distaste. She may have sex in unusual places with partners of both genders and other than her own race and involving various kinks and positions - though not necessarily all together in the same encounters - simply for the experience.[20]

It is important to note that clerics of Sharess are sensualists rather than hedonists - they want to experience pain and discomfort as well as pleasure, and aren’t primarily concerned (as a hedonist is) with maximizing their personal pleasure. A cleric of Sharess wants others around her to experience life to the full too, and to maximize their pleasure and enjoyment of it. She is interested in getting them to “unwind” and “relax” and “try new experiences” - something as simple as a new sort of food, for example.[20]

A cleric of Sharess is not interested in embarrassing or scandalizing anyone, nor will she want to offend against local laws or make things difficult for companions because of her behaviour. This is where wisdom and understanding of others and consideration for their feelings comes in. She will not make overtures to those who don't wish it and will not be a constant tease or a flirt who bares herself to tempt others. She may offer to help a companion disrobe, wash his hair or scratch an itch, while making it clear that she intends no seduction by these friendly aids and going only as far in these activities as he wants her to. In another setting, with folk who enjoy such behaviour, she may be the world’s wildest flirt. Clerics of Sharess enjoy a good drink, but dislike becoming drunk, because it deadens their faculties for experiencing the world around them and their memories of having done so.[20]

A cleric of Sharess is not ashamed of her body or natural processes - being drenched in the blood or fluids of an enemy won’t bother them, and sucking poison from a wound or holding the innards of wounded self or ally in place won’t bring any distaste. If, for example, a Sharessan cleric feels an itch between her shoulderblades, she won’t hesitate to bare them and either ask someone to scratch her (perfect strangers if they seem safe, or a companion) or rub herself against a tree as a cat does. Many clerics of Sharess signal enjoyment of sensations by purring. Eating food off the bared body of someone else is a favourite activity, and in fact some temple rites of Sharess involve having novice clergy dine in this way with another postulant of the same gender so that they’ll get over any difficulties with being unable to separate sensual pleasures from sexual matters.[20]

Except in unbearably hot situations, a cleric of Sharess sleeping with someone will always prefer to do so in the nude, skin to skin, even if no sex is going to occur. While this does not mean she’ll insist on trying to sleep with a sick or wounded person when her presence will cause them discomfort, she isn’t embarrassed about climbing into bed nude with anyone or anything. Lonely half-orcs and the maimed and disfigured love clerics of Sharess. This also does not mean she’ll be foolish enough to deliberately go into battle nude or badly covered when armor is available, but in an emergency she’ll snatch up useful items or weapons and not waste time on getting dressed.[20]

Her outer garb, even when it covers her from ankles to throat (usually it will bare rather more) will have slits or unbuttonable darts or the like so it can readily be hiked up or parted. If she has to sit on a stone wall or tree bough she’ll be able to arrange her clothing so that her bare skin is in contact with the surface. Some clerics of Sharess of high rank wear garters (bands worn tight and high up on the thighs) adorned with burrs, thorns, patches of silky fur, and so on - not because they are masochists or secret worshippers of Loviatar or Ilmater, but for the ongoing sensations. Such garments are kissed reverently when put on and taken off, because they are in themselves offerings to the goddess. Sharessin will not usually wear underclothes except for “play” purposes.[20]

Nor will she be foolhardy or reckless of the safety of others. However, if she is wounded in battle, she wants to feel the pain, even while she might desperately want and seek healing. Heat, cold, and floggings are usually experienced by novice clerics of Sharess who are merely trying to experience all things - sometimes the whip will be of stinging nettles, but the next time it may be made of feathers.[20]

Clerics of Sharess always look on the bright side of things. If the party gets lost, or drenched, it’s an opportunity to enjoy experiences they might otherwise have missed, not a calamity. If they want to have a group orgy, she’ll be the one making sure everyone feels involved and is fully enjoying it. In any group, she’ll notice the lonely or unhappy one and try to remedy that. When someone is confused or grieving or depressed, she’ll be the silent or gently comforting companion. She is the one who wants all of life, no matter how uncomfortable, to be enjoyed.[20]

Scriptures

There are no known formal scriptures of Sharess, though her followers have penned a variety of documents such as The Scrolls of Xee, of which several versions exist.[8][21] Other published works include poetry, prayer guides, instruction manuals and pillow books inspired by the worship of the Lustful Mistress.[9]

The Church

Followers

Sharess is revered by male and female professional escorts[10] who take pride in their professions, the decadent rich, and those who seek only endless pleasure in life. In Mulhorand, she is also revered by those who combat Set and rewards those who work long and hard against him with occasional nights of wild pleasure to inspire them to further efforts. Sharess's faith is still very young and its ceremonies very loose and fluid, with long worship services that often resemble nothing so much as extended feasts and revels, heavy on the pleasures of the flesh and light on the teachings of the spirit. A goodly number of former followers of Waukeen who have rejected Lliira's teachings have become interested in Sharess. She is worshipped in large urban areas such as Waterdeep, Calimport, and other cities along the Sword Coast, but small shrines to the Goddess of Pleasure may be found throughout the Realms. There is also a small but significant number of elves and half-elves among her clergy, most of whom venerate her as Zandilar the Dancer.[1] Many of her clerics are also trained as bards.[6] In Amia, she is is venerated by the group known as the Sisters of Sharess.

Organization

Her priests and priestesses are collectively known as Sharessin. Both male and female humans can be found in their ranks, but charismatic and physically beautiful women comprise the great majority of them.[1] The church of Sharess is casually organized, although its members often work and play together.[6] Many priests and priestesses of Sharess run festhalls in large cities or directly serve decadent rulers. Wealthy festhalls often employ one or two mid-level Sharessin, and some wander the countryside with Sharess's blessing seeking new pleasing sensations to add to their repertoire.[1][6] Many professional escorts in major cities join formal or informal guilds led by her clergy.[1]

Ecclesiastic Titles

Ranks within the Amian Temple of Sharess (by level of priestly experience) are set out below and may not correspond with rankings used in the mainland temples. Priestly specialization does not mean that different titles are used, only that an individual's personal emphasis on the Goddess may differ from the majority of the Church members; affiliated orders, however, may have their own ranking systems.
  • Indulgent (1-3) - A newcomer to the Temple, this person may be expected to participate avidly in rites and ceremonies out of sheer novelty and desire for pleasure.
  • Hedonate (4-6) - Having attained a more refined understanding of doctrine, the Hedonate is motivated to further explore sensations with an eye to understanding the subtleties of perception. She understands that unpleasant sensations may be as important as pleasant ones. Most casual followers of the Goddess are not likely to progress beyond this rank.
  • Sensualite (7-12) - The Sybarine displays an advanced appreciation of the Goddess and Her way and a sincere and earnest devotion to the pursuit of sensual experience. She recognizes that all sorts of experiences are necessary for our growth and development and that excessive overindulgence may not be wise.
  • Sybarine (13-20) - The individual who has progressed to this rank has made a firm commitment to the Temple and devoted a significant portion of their time to Temple matters such as ceremonies and leadership roles. The individual explores the implications of doctrine and meditates upon the moral and practical consequences of the Sharessan way.
  • Voluptuar (21+) - One who has attained a profound level of understanding of the Goddess. This person is given to the indulgence of the appetites or senses as a means to happiness and fulfillment. Rather than being motivated solely by pleasure, those who have reached this rank are sensual in the strictest meaning of the term - they understand that not all experiences are necessarily pleasurable, but that all can be appreciated for the insights they afford.

Specialty Priests

The clergy of Sharess is split evenly between clerics and specialty priests, with the balance slowly shifting in favor of specialty priests. Alignment restrictions for Sharess's clergy (particularly clerics) are weak, and a gentle slide toward evil is still often tolerated. Those priests who remain evil and seem unwilling or unable to drift back toward neutrality in their behavior are secretly entreated by agents of Shar to shift their worship to the Lady of Loss while maintaining their position within the clergy of Sharess. The Feline of Felicity seems unwilling or unable to prevent such defections at this time, rare though they may be.[1]
Sensates
Specialty priests of Sharess are known as Sensates. Although humans make up the majority of the clergy of Sharess, elves, half-elves, and the rare halfling may also become Sensates. These priests and priestesses are known for being arrestingly charming and light on their feet[1] and best embody the Festhall Madam’s aspects of hedonism, pleasure, desire, and felines. They have their greatest power along the Sword Coast (Waterdeep in particular), and have often clashed aggressively (if not violently) with the more militaristic, traditional Celebrants of Sharess whenever the two groups have met.[17]
Celebrants
Another group is the Celebrants of Sharess. These followers of the Goddess do not neglect Sharess in her present aspect as the goddess of pleasure and lust, but neither do they forget the ancient Foe of Set, who was Anhur's lieutenant. Celebrants of Sharess are seducers and warriors, hedonists and pious champions of good. While many of the Goddess's followers are chaotic neutral and some even lean toward evil, the celebrants are an ever-present reminder that evil is the enemy, and that pleasure is to be enjoyed and shared with all as an act of good. Though celebrants of Sharess are not clerics, in many ways they represent a truer embodiment of their deity's nature than many of her clerics do. Most celebrants were previously bards. Sometimes barbarian find themselves drawn to the celebrants, and rogues are common among their ranks as well. Celebrants are rare, and they find little welcome in the decadent church of Sharess. The celebrants have initiated a reform movement within the church, challenging the establishment to change its interpretation of Sharess's dogma and remember the good aspect of her alignment as well as the free-wheeling chaotic one.[7]
Dancers
Somewhere in between the Sensates and the Celebrants are the Dancers of Sharess. They seek pleasure at every opportunity and live life as one endless revel. They value being footloose and fancy free and resist restrictions of any kind - cultural, emotional, mental, or physical - placed on them by others. They love to dance, and most are accomplished singers and play one or more musical instruments. Dancers find evil ugly and repugnant, and they hate undead, viewing them as a violation of the dead's peaceful rest and an offense against the vibrancy of the positive energy of life. But dancers of Sharess also draw from an eclectic set of mandates and traditions passed down through the evolution of their Goddess and her church. Their hatred of Set comes from their Goddess's ancient history as Bast, of Vhaeraun from her merger with Zandilar, and of Shar from her captivity by that deity in her recent past as Sharess. Their affiliation with felines also grows from their Goddess's history as Bast, who subsumed Felidae, and their accomplishments in dance from Zandilar the Dancer. Bast also lends them a tradition of fighting skills that few realize exists behind the dancers' pleasure-sodden existence. Clerics most often become dancers of Sharess, with druids and rangers being less common choices. Sharess's philosophy so chafes under restriction that it cannot accommodate the lawful nature of paladins and monks.[18]

Affiliated & Related Orders

The Society of Sensation
As there is no known connection between those of Sharess's faithful known as 'Sensates' and the planar faction of the same name, this is a potential point of confusion.[1] These 'other' Sensates, more properly known as The Society of Sensation, is a group dedicated to experiencing everything the multiverse has to offer. The Society sponsors many performances and exhibitions of both conventional and more unusual art forms. They delight in stimulating all their senses. They are not hedonists, per se, and resent comparison between their noble purpose and the hedonistic creed of Sharess’s clergy. Although they certainly take great pleasure from the visceral knowledge they seek. But The Sensates are on a mission to experience the true scope and grandeur of the multiverse by cataloguing and sharing every sensation of which the mortal condition is capable. There is an off-shoot of these Sensates called The Children of the Vine, a sub-faction that seeks out pleasurable sensations above all others, and believes that every caprice should be satisfied in the moment.[4] This more hedonistic branch of the Sensates is thus rather similar to certain worshippers of the Festhall Madam.
Eyes of Evening
Sharess is reputed to be served by a secretive sisterhood of female werecats known as the Eyes of Evening who also pay tribute to Selûne.[1] These unique followers are the chosen elite, gifted by both goddesses with the ability to assume the form of ordinary cats. An Eye of the Evening delights in all forms of physical pleasure, yet maintains the quiet elegance of a feline. She is soft spoken and patient, but always a cunning and dangerous opponent. One does not become, or train to be an Eye of the Evening, they are simply chosen.[19] The aims and goals of this mysterious fellowship are unknown, although they are rumored to hunt cultists of Shar and Loviatar during nights of the full moon.[1]
Mulhorandi sects
In Mulhorand, Bast has a more militant reputation than Sharess. A number of adventuring bands who work against Set and his agents, including the Desert Fire and the Daggers of Truth, count Bast as a patroness and also receive support from other Mulhorandi faiths, including those of Anhur and Horus-Re.[1]

Ceremonies

The church of Sharess celebrates more festivals than possibly any other faith in Faerûn. They are known collectively as the Endless Revel of Life. The daily rising and setting of the sun, the yearly passage of seasons, the appearance of a full moon, or nearly any other event is cause for a celebration and wild revel to which the general populace is always invited. Each such festival has several outlandish titles and new festivals are added all the time as old ones are forgotten. Without comparison, however, Midsummer's Eve is the time of greatest rejoicing among Sharess's faithful and an occasion for the most extreme pursuits of boundless pleasure.[1][6] Clerics of Sharess pray for their spells at dusk, when the lure of the night first beckons.[6]

Marriages

Sharess doesn't particularly mind who gets married (in other words, beings of the same gender, beings of different races, beings already married to others, beings very closely blood-related to each other - all sorts of unions are okay, as well as the more traditional 'male and female of the same race' pairings), so long as love and passion (demonstrated physically, through lovemaking) exist within the union, and that both partners of the union be 'unjealous' enough that both partners in the union will be free to flirt (including at least kissing and caressing) with other beings not part of the union.[11] Sharess (and therefore her church) doesn't much care about the married or unmarried state of persons indulging in lustful practices. However, performing short-term marriages wouldn't be clerical policy for them, except perhaps to indulge wanton faithful desiring the thrill of turning a marriage ceremony into a debauchery.[12] Sharessan marriage ceremonies differ between those celebrated in Amia[13] and elsewhere in Faerûn.[11]

Funerals

In some places in Faerûn, Sharessan funerals do not involve burial, interment in crypts or embalming. Instead, priests embrace the dead in a ‘last intimacy’ (that need not be more than a kiss while the cleric’s arms are wrapped around the body), and the corpses are then animated using a Firedance spell, to cavort in the air above a pyre which consumes them so that they "dance on air" as they crumble to ash.[14] This practice likely does not sit well with the Dancers of Sharess.

Liturgy

Examples of prayers and invocations to the Goddess for general use or in specific ceremonies may be found here and in the archives of Candlekeep ([1], [2]).

Temples

Her temples are typically constructed to resemble elaborate festhalls, with graceful, fluting pillars, octagonal domes, great halls sculpted to resemble forest glades, secluded nooks, bathing areas in natural mineral springs, great banquet halls, and richly scented massage parlors. Most are guarded by staunch fighters and even exotic sentient monsters who are sworn to protect all revelers who partake in the name of Sharess.[1] The festhalls cater to all the senses and include fantastic feasts, heavenly baths and massages, unique experiences such as flight, and every other pleasure imaginable.[1][6]

The center of Sharess's faith is the Festhall of Eternal Delight located along Calimport's waterfront. An earlier temple on this spot was destroyed during the most recent Night Parade, and the new temple is even more extravagant than the last. Dark marble columns, jutting spires, crystalline statues in enticing poses and vast, landscaped atriums decorate this sprawling complex. The temple baths are legendary for their recuperative powers and skilled masseuses, and the temple flowers are carefully selected for the reputed aphrodisiacal properties of their scents in some rooms and their calming or soothing properties in others. Gigantic fighters (several who appear to have giant or ogre blood), a sirine (somehow magically equipped to breathe air), and a faerie dragon, among other exotic protectors, stand guard against the frequent raids from the neighboring Temple of Old Night.[1]

Dress

All priests of Sharess wear their hair long and style it to show off their faces and bodies to their best advantage. The priestly raiment of Sharess's clergy varies widely according to the priest's gender, the local climate, current fashions, and the priest's taste. Waterdhavian courtesans favor highly suggestive evening dresses that make them seem half-undressed, while the women of Calimport's harem's wear diaphanous negligees, short vests, sheer pantaloons, gold dust, and endless gemstone beads and coins strung in ropes and made into decorative chains and fringes. Male clergy typically prefer tight-fitting breeches that are tailored to their charms and blousy open shirts. They often wear decorative belts and vests. The few priests and priestesses of Bast who remain in Mulhorand favor tight-fitting kalasiris (white linen knee-length skirts) and ornate pectoral collars draped suggestively over the chest or breasts.[1]

When adventuring, the clergy of Sharess endeavour to preserve the gifts of the Goddess as best as they can and hence typically wear the best armor they can afford. There is no point to living life without pleasure, however, so they always decorate such armor as provocatively as possible.[1]

History

Sharess is the more commonly recognized name of the deity originally known as Bast. When the Mulhorandi deities emigrated for Faerûn, Bast accompanied them. At that point, she was known mainly as Anhur's lieutenant in the eternal struggle against Set and as the patroness of cats, revered for their ability to keep rats from the precious grain of the Mulhorandi people and their eternal vigilance against the serpents and scorpions of Set. At the height of the second empires of Mulhorand and Unther, numerous beast cults gained popularity for a time. During this period, the Mulan and Turami peoples began to venerate Felidae, a goddess of felines, sensual pleasures, and nomads revered by the barbarians to the north and west, and in a very short time the more powerful Bast subsumed Felidae's portfolio and position into her own. However, the taste of foreign ways and foreign places tantalized Bast and like many felines, she was struck with wanderlust. When Ao allowed Mask to expand his geographic sphere of influence to include the thieves of the Old Empires (since they had no native deity who served that function and an innate prejudice against such), he required that the Faerûnian pantheon accept a Mulhorandi power into their geographic sphere of influence in exchange.[1] Whether the Amian (originally Mulhorandi) lesser god of hunting and cats known as Feleis is related to the original Felidae is uncertain.

Bast immediately set off to explore Faerûn. She maintained a few followers in the Mulhorandi sphere, however, and continued to answer their prayers (if sporadically), so her name and powers were never lost to the people of the Old Empires. She soon became known as the Patroness of Festhalls as she wandered throughout the rest of the Realms. Numerous short-lived cults were created in the wake of her passing, but most quickly vanished when the Goddess lost interest in her current flock and moved on to new pleasures. The veneration of cats in Cormyr and Mulhorand is the main remaining legacy of these ancient, wild revels. The connection between Bast of the Old Empires and Sharess of western Faerûn is supported by the tendency for most images of the Goddess to be depicted stroking a resplendent black cat.[1]

Some time later, Bast acquired the portfolio and aspect of an elven demipower worshiped by the elves of the Yuirwood. Zandilar the Dancer was an elven goddess of love whose portfolio, unlike that of the more romance- and beauty-oriented Hanali Celanil, was directed toward passionate, physical love which burned hot and quickly but eventually died out. Zandilar was a joyful and tragic demipower who is said to have used her feminine wiles to gain vital information for deities of other pantheons and to persuade human chieftains and kings to leave the Yuir in peace. When the Yuir elves began to falter in a series of battles with drow armies, Zandilar attempted to seduce the dark elven deity Vhaeraun either to gain information or to elicit his assistance in battling the forces of Lolth. However, the dark elven lord betrayed Zandilar and imprisoned her avatar, and her self-sacrifice went for naught.[1] Vhaeraun intended to seize Zandilar's divine essence for himself, but failed when Bast distracted him long enough for the elven demipower to escape. In gratitude and out of necessity, the severely weakened Zandilar voluntarily merged her essence with that of Bast,[1] precipitating the premature birth of Vhaeraun’s son, Selvetarm.[15] The reinvigorated goddess was then strong enough to help the Yuir elves drive off the drow forces for a time. As a result of this union, Bast became more focused on the pursuit of pleasure and acquired the nickname "the Dancing Lady."[1]

Some time after the fall of Myth Drannor, Bast began to experiment with the darker side of pleasure and fell under the influence of Shar, Mistress of the Night. Known as the Maidens of the Forbidden Fruit, the two goddesses were strongly linked in the liturgy of the church of Shar until Bast was seen simply as an aspect of Shar known as Sharess,[1] which could literally mean "Little Shar".[16] The ranks of the Lustful Mistress's clergy slowly dwindled throughout the Realms as the Nightbringers spoke of her being a precursor to the despair and loss that all beings will eventually embrace. Those who encountered the Goddess of Pleasure during this time found her beauty slowly fading and the joy of life leaving her eyes.[1]

Sharess was never fully absorbed by Shar, however, and during the Time of Troubles she was released from this dark fate by Sune. Sharess had assumed the form of the favorite concubine of the Pasha of Calimport as her avatar and was engaged in a wild life of decadence within that ruler's harem when the avatar of Shar arrived to slay Sharess once and for all, as she had already done to Ibrandul. However, before Shar could destroy Sharess and seize her portfolio, the avatar of Sune arrived with a chalice filled with the sacred waters of Evergold and doused Sharess in its liquid essence. Sharess immediately regained her faded beauty and rebelled against the Dark Dancer's bitter influence.[1]

In the wake of the Godswar, Sharess has removed herself from the Realms to Arvandor where she joins Sune and the elven goddess Hanali Celanil in frolicking in and around the pool of Evergold. Some tales claim Sharess is the younger, more decadent sister of Sune, although this is not strictly true. Sharess puts even Sune and Lliira to shame with her excesses.[1]

Timeline

Although available documents don't allow determination of the date of the merging of Bast and Zandilar (and the birth of Selvetarm) with any great accuracy, it likely occurs some time between 500 - 700 DR, but most probably during the time of upheaval that marks the first half of the 7th century DR. Another hundred years or more elapse before Bast starts to become influenced by Shar, and then remains so for a further 6 centuries until liberated during the Time of Troubles. [22]


Date Range Estimated Event
-2489 DR -2489 DR Mulhorandi gods arrive in Faerun
205-482 250-450 Bast absorbs Felidae
205-679 300-650 Bast departs Mulhorand
670-715 675-700 Bast joins with Zandilar & gives birth to Selvetarm
715-808 720-800 Bast falls under the sway of Shar & becomes Sharess
1358 DR 1358 DR Sharess freed from Shar's influence by Sune


Relationships

Sharess fiercely clings to her newfound independence and remains infatuated with the pursuit of pleasure in all forms despite the counsel of Sune and the dark entreaties of Shar. Her revitalized clergy is spreading through the festhalls of the Realms, regaling worshipers with (wholly unsubstantiated) tales of Sharess's bawdy exploits in league with her friends Milil and Lliira and with other Faerûnian deities. Sharess is well aware of the fine - dark - line between her portfolio and that of Loviatar and jealously guards her domain from the Maiden of Pain. She is morbidly fascinated by Ilmater and frequently attempts to seduce him - so far without success. Sharess and Nobanion get along well because of their mutual feline natures, but Sharess cannot resist teasing him occasionally (and thus getting him irked at her) because she likes to fray the edges of his straight-laced nature to see what will happen. Bast and Anhur have an off-again, on-again relationship that swings from deep love to indifference and involves frequent spats and occasional fits of pique (especially on Bast's part), but both of them would always help each other when it comes to matters of importance. Sharess maintains an active hatred for Set and his activities as the core of her nature and can always be relied on to oppose him and aid those who fight to root out his influence.[1]

The goddesses Llira, Sune, Sharess and Hanali Celanil are quite closely allied and it is not uncommon to find members of their various clergies working together to celebrate their faiths. Many aspects of each of their portfolios are blurred and cross over one another. A beautiful revel of food, art, dance, drink, merriment, love (and lust) crosses the boundaries of all of their porfolios.[2]

Domain

Arborea or more fully, the Olympian Glades of Arborea, is also referred to as "Olympus" or "Arvandor", though in reality those names describe separate realms within the plane. Arborea is stylised as a peaceful plane of natural beauty with a multitude of thriving environments. Much of the plane is dominated by vast tall forests, but also includes glades of wildflowers and fields of grain. As a plane that also embodies chaos, it has a wild and often sudden nature. The weather can change drastically at short notice, changing from warm sunshine to raging winds and back again in just a few minutes. Arborea is spatially infinite, further consisting of three infinite layers (or sub-planes).[3]

The first layer has in the past been known as Olympus, though more recently it is referred to only as Arvandor. Principally, it is the home plane of the Seldarine, the good Elven deities, headed by Corellon Larethian. This layer is mostly endless canopies of forest with huge clearings containing many idealized elven settlements. Arvandor has a day and night cycle matching that of the material plane. The goddess Eilistraee also resides in the forests of Arvandor, despite her banishment. Arborea’s first layer shares borders with the neighbouring planes of the Heroic Domains of Ysgard and the Wilderness of the Beastlands; travel is possible between Arborea and these planes at certain locations. The actual realm of Olympus is found here, and is home to many deities of the Greek pantheon, including Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, and the titan Rhea. There are several other realms located on this layer, including, The aarakocra goddess Syranita's realm of Whistledge, the giant goddess Iallanis's realm of Florallium, Trithereon's realm of The Forking Road, and Chih-Nii's realm of Loom of the Celestial River.[3]

Brightwater

The realm of Brightwater is located on Arvandor. Four goddesses have domains here, including Lliira, Sharess, Sune, and Tymora.[4]

Sune, a human goddess of love and daughter of Selûne, became fast friends with the elven love goddess Hanali Celanil. Hanali mentored young Sune in the godly arts for a time, and so Sune left her mother’s realm in the Gates of the Moon to found her own realm of Heartfire in Arborea, next to Hanali’s Crystal Palace, on the border between Olympus and Arvandor.[4]

After many ages of peaceful coexistence and cooperation, the human and elven gods of Arborea decided to part ways. Sune had long since ceased to need Hanali as a mentor and had grown closer in recent years to Tymora and Lliira. The three human goddesses Tymora, Sune and Lliira decided to create a new shining city of their own called Brightwater. Tymora, Lliira and Sune performed their 'Melding of the Three', and the divine realms of the three human goddesses merged into the unified city of Brightwater. Brightwater has since grown and prospered. After the Time of Troubles, the goddess Sharess, whom Sune had freed from Shar’s influence, also came to settle there. She nestled her realm of Rapture between Sune’s and Lliira’s quarters. More recently, when Lliira became steward of Waukeen’s realm, she relocated Waukeen’s Marketplace Eternal from the House of Knowledge to the bustling heart of Brightwater, where it has stayed ever since.[4]

The waters of the river Brightwater, from which the city takes its name, sparkle and shimmer with golden flashes. They have a faint radiance, more evident in the evening hours, which provides a gentle glow along the river banks as it wends its way through the city and its many canals. It is said that the river acquires its luster from the Evergold, a magical wellspring in Sune’s palace, the legendary fountain of beauty and youth. It exists simultaneously within Sune’s realm and also in Hanali Celanil’s Crystal Palace in Arvandor, linking their two realms together. The river that flows from it is always pure and sweet, no matter what people may cast into it, and its waters are holy.[4]

Tymora’s Quarter of the Great Wheel is the largest quarter in Brightwater. Its white marble buildings and fine archways flank broad avenues that radiate outwards, like the spokes of a wheel, from a central forum. Across the river lies Sune’s Heartfire Quarter, whose labyrinthine streets and gardens are girded by smaller, more elegant buildings, each one a work of art. In the center of the City spreads an expanse of tents and stalls, where the commerce of the Marketplace Eternal teems with merchants and traders at all hours of the day and night. Beyond that lies Lliira’s Quarter of the Orange Lanterns, whose streets seethe with revelers and dancers. Their raucous joy is occasionally punctuated by scintillating glamours and spectacular illusions that blossom above the streets and bring shouts of glee from the partiers below. And in the distance, nestled between Sune’s and Lliira’s quarters, is Rapture, Sharess’s realm, whose dark alleys and twisted streets evoke the darker pleasures her quarter affords.[4]

Rapture

From Lliira's Quarter of the Orange Lanterns, one crosses the Brightwater River into Rapture, Sharess’s Quarter, by way of the Bridge of Slain Scorpions, which commemorates an ancient victory of Bast over Set. The architecture here is eclectic, but strongly influenced by Mulhorandi and Calishite stonework. Buildings are often solid and square, with round columns. Thick stone and brick walls lean inwards, at just a slight angle. The skyline is punctuated by octagonal domes and the occasional minaret. Buildings of any height have many balconies, from which the occupants observe and call down to the revelers on the streets below. Mosaics abound, with intricate tilework prominently featured throughout. Wild and musky scents fill the air along with perfumes of every fragrance. The streets here are narrow and poorly lit. Buildings do not touch; they are separated by slender alleys that twist and wend back behind the structures. Shadows proliferate, giving the quarter a darker feel than the rest of the city. A darkness that reflects, in part, the darker pleasures that Sharess and her petitioners enjoy. The canals in this quarter spill into many magnificent bath houses; communal bathing and massage are just some of the favored pastimes of Sharess’s realm. The taverns and festhalls of this quarter are noted for their exotic fare. Connoisseurs come from far away to sample the long menus of wines and other intoxicants for which this quarter is famed. The quarter is filled with cats, some of whom are petitioners. Sharess’s faithful may select from a variety of petitioner forms, including human, lion, leopard, domestic cat, or cat-headed humanoid. Many of her human petitioners choose to spend their afterlife in cat form; amusingly, many of her feline petitioners choose a humanoid form. In addition to petitioners, there are a variety of planar felines here: wemics, leopardweres, sphinxes, lamaasu, celestial lions, and stranger cats. Even the occasional rakshasa feels at home in this quarter.[4]

References

[1] Powers & Pantheons, pp.51-55, quoted in http://www.nj-pbem.com/data/Gods/humangods/Sharess.htm

[2] Comment by Khalis (19 Jul 2004) in http://www.enworld.org/archive/index.php/t-94726.html

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arborea_(plane)

[4] "A Revel in Brightwater", The Candlekeep Compendium, vol. VI, July 2006 (http://www.candlekeep.com/compendium/Candlekeep_Compendium-Volume_VI.zip, available at http://www.candlekeep.com/compendium)

[5] http://lwnsql.lfchosting.com/LdSHARESS.html

[6] Faiths & Pantheons, p.105

[7] From Player's Guide to Faerûn, quoted in http://realmshelps.dandello.net/cgi-bin/prestige2.pl?Celebrant_of_Sharess

[8] see also http://www.amiaworld.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=16611

[9] See The Liturgy of Sharess at http://amiawiki.shatuga.com/index.php/The_Scrolls_of_Xee_-_Liturgy; see also this link to adult fiction at The House of Sharess, http://www.asstr.org/~sharess/

[10] Synonyms for prostitutes. Entry for May 21, 2007 in "So Saith Ed (Answers from Ed Greenwood), Apr - Jun 2007" at http://www.candlekeep.com/library/articles/sse/sse_040506-07.htm

[11] Entry for January 30, 2005 in "So Saith Ed (Answers from Ed Greenwood), Jan - Mar 2005" at http://www.candlekeep.com/library/articles/sse/sse_010203-05.htm

[12] Entry for April 13, 2004 in "So Saith Ed (Answers from Ed Greenwood), Feb - Apr 2004" at http://www.candlekeep.com/library/articles/sse/sse_020304-04.htm

[13] http://amiawiki.shatuga.com/index.php/The_Scrolls_of_Xee_-_Wedding

[14] Entry for October 24, 2005 in "So Saith Ed (Answers from Ed Greenwood), Oct - Dec 2005" at http://www.candlekeep.com/library/articles/sse/sse_101112-05.htm

[15] http://www.shsforums.net/index.php?showtopic=11212

[16] Comments by Zandilar (1 Sept 2007) in http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=916333

[17] Comments by Zandilar (2 Nov 2005) in http://boards1.wizards.com/wotc_archive/index.php/t-529519.html

[18] From Dragon magazine (#290), quoted in http://realmshelps.dandello.net/cgi-bin/prestige2.pl?Dancer_of_Sharess

[19] http://p222.ezboard.com/fokayyourturnfrm25.showMessage?topicID=108.topic

[20] Adapted from post by The Hooded One (15 Jul 07) in "Questions for Ed Greenwood (2007)" at http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=8518&whichpage=46

[21] http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=12492

[22] http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=12963


External links

Links to some other wikis with entries on Sharess: