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Ardarvia, The Iron Maiden. Maybe it started as a joke, but it seems we are trying to put something together here. Lawful Good BDSM goddess. It's not as crazy as you might think.

Originally popped up on /tg/ as a counterpoint to the earlier established Helotry of Xiombarg.

Ardarvia, The Iron Maiden[edit]

Alignment: Lawful Good

Portfolio: Bondage, discipline, love, and punishment

Domains: Bondage, Glory, Good, Law, Nobility

Favored Weapon: Whip(and variants)

Holy Symbol: Stylized iron maiden coffin

The Iron Maiden is a strict, yet benevolent deity. While she and her oft-misunderstood followers are often seen as strange or even frightening by many, they have long been a force for good and stability in this world and the next.

Ardarvia's origins are uncertain. What is known is that before rising to godhood, she had been an entity of good before falling from grace and eventually finding redemption. Many theorize that she had been a fallen angel, lured by the call of tyrannical law and slavery as an ideal means of establishing order. Others theorize that she was herself enslaved by an unknown entity and made into a servant of uncaring, absolute law. Some believe there is truth in both.

Regardless of her past, what is certain is that when she regained her place amongst the heavens, she had been changed by her eternal penance. Finally at peace with a balance of good, law, and her natural desires, she became an example for mortals with kindred souls.

She accepts and gives guidance to those who feel a pull towards the mutual allure of pleasure and pain, of dominance and submission. She is protective of those who enter willingly into slavery out of their own desires, while remaining a staunch enemy of "true" slavery which she now sees as an abomination. She demands respect, not just from her worshippers towards herself, but also towards each other. She is adamant on the importance of rules and boundaries between lovers, with mutual trust being among her most sacred virtues.

Given her history and nature, she also has an interest in the redemption of evil beings, be they mortal or outsider. While she is wise enough to understand that this is not always possible, she is adamant that such pursuits should be undertaken when reasonable. She take particular delight in claiming demons and devils from the folds of the Abyss and Hell, guiding them towards good and welcoming them into her ranks as new, sanctified beings.

Ardarvia is most often represented as a tightly bound woman encased from head to toe in form-hugging iron, held aloft by chains grasped by a hundred angels. Her coldly beautiful face is the only flesh visible in many representations, although most portray her as having a face of steel or an iron mask. Other interpretations have painted her to be a towering, statuesque dominatrix, clad in steel and leather, with the joyous, rapturous souls of her most devout hanging from chains binding them to the goddess' multiple piercings. Regardless of the depiction's specifics, she is always portrayed by her faithful as strict, domineering, but also with a compassionate understanding in her eyes.

Her holy symbol is most often represented as a stylized silver iron maiden coffin. Particularly ornate and expensive symbols actually open to reveal a representation of the goddess within. A lesser known symbol, and one wrapped in mystery even within the clergy, is that of two chain links joined together in the shape of an infinity symbol:

It is rumored that this symbol does not represent Ardarvia herself, but rather a small pantheon of allied gods and goddesses bound together by a sacred pact, of which Ardarvia is only one member. Many scholars have theorized that it speaks of a chain of loyalty between deific powers, of whom Ardarvia is merely the most visible. Rumors abound of numerous gods and godlings who were involved in Ardarvia's redemption and return to the fold of Good. Many of these godlings are seen as saints or gods themselves, honored within Ardarvia's clergy and worshipped by sects of their own. There are also theories positing that Ardarvia herself is sworn as a slave to another well known god of good and law, albeit one not publicly affiliated with Ardarvia's church and goals.

These mysteries have driven many scholars and clergy members to delve deep into Ardarvia's past, but solid answers are few and far between, and many of those questing for answers find themselves content with the lives they find themselves living within the halls of Ardarvia's churches and monasteries.

The whip, and variants such as the cat-o'-nine-tails, nagaika, and whip-dagger, is the sacred weapon and tool of Ardarvia, used for war, discipline, and love. While single-tail whips are wisely warned against as a tool between partners, many Ardarvians are often rigorously trained with whips bestowed with the merciful enchantment until they are skilled enough to use them properly and safely. Still, multi-tailed lashes of gentler make are most often used between partners.


Ardarvia and her faithful strive to guide those with desires similar to their own to come to peace with them, and be able to act upon them safely and properly. They strive to bring order to a chaotic world, and to stamp out evil that all too often apes their own sacred rituals as a means of gaining power or to fulfill their own selfish needs.

They fight involuntary slavery where they can. While they sometimes strive to abolish it, they prefer to subvert it wherever possible, towards something closer to their ideal. For the most part however, they are stalwart defenders of the freedom of innocents.

They also have an interest in policing the sex trade of many civilizations. They attempt to guide the desirous away from illicit and exploitative institutions and towards more legal and, most importantly, entirely consensual means of release. They will fight to undermine a brothel that forces people into prostitution, but they will gladly guide others towards willing temple prostitutes or groups with relevant interests.

Redemption of evil beings is also of great importance, with Ardarvia's past held up as an example. Salvation of the soul remains their primary concern, but they are also concerned with exacting the proper punishment as well as administering effective means of reformation to keep them on the path of good. The punishments and rituals of penance vary wildly according to the nature of the penitent's sins. It is suspected by some that most lawful and good Drow have integrated into society through this method. A few monasteries exist specifically for the reformation and rehabilitation of Drow refugees from the Underdark.

Evil outsiders are also given this treatment, but the punishment and penance required are much more extreme, to the point that no mortal could hope to survive the trials the fiends must endure. The rituals required vary by fiend, as they must be tailored to each type of outsider's specific nature. For example, repentant succubi and incubi are put through arduous tests geared towards denying them instant gratification as well as taming their base lusts. Failure at any point during this process means that the penitent must begin his or her trials from the start, but once they have finally passed, they will have been fully redeemed, losing the Evil subtype and being granted the Sanctified template.

Most evil outsiders who succeed in their conversion have their more malevolent abilities replaced with gifts from their new goddess, remaking them into beings more fitting to serve in her name. For example, a succubus/incubus loses the ability to drain energy levels from their victims and gains the ability to overwhelm their targets with nerve-searing agony and/or euphoria with a passionate touch.


Lawful Good followers of the Iron Maiden recognize the importance of voluntarily following rules, as well as ensuring that these rules are both fair and clear, for otherwise voluntary obedience is eclipsed by tyranny, and the rule of fear. They often work to guide others towards a healthy balance of their desires and responsibilities. Their pursuits are as much a ongoing test and exercise of free will and responsibility, as it is for pleasure. They account for most of the church's great champions, as well as the most trusted and fair slave owners.

Lawful Neutral followers of the Iron Maiden recognize the importance of clear and strict guidelines to live by. The goddess' path offers stability and order, and seduces others towards a less chaotic, dangerous way of life. They enforce the order of their church, focusing on ensuring that all are adhering to the rules they have sworn themselves to, and that these rules are not unilaterally changed by those in power.

Neutral Good followers of the Iron Maiden are understanding and accepting, recognizing that not all are comfortable with their heart's desires. They seek to guide those souls, helping them make peace with their desires, while guiding them along a safe and consensual path. They often serve as counselors among the faithful, and those curious about it.

Clerics of Ardarvia tend to the spiritual guidance of their flock, instructing the faithful on the importance of understanding and respect between lovers, as well as the virtues of finding pleasure through service. Providing pleasure is a pleasurable act in itself, and to know one has grown closer to making oneself into a better slave for one´s master through enduring his/her whims, either related to one´s pain or pleasure, is the reward of the faithful. They are promoters of stability in all forms of relationships, and ever watchful for any form of abuse or perversion of Ardarvia's gifts. They promote their goddess' virtues, but they also recognize that not all will ever be comfortable with such things. They are as respectful of these people as they would be to their partners.

Paladins of Ardarvia are as shining champions of law and goodness as the paladins of any other deity. They stand apart, however, in their complete comfort with their sexual nature, and in the championing of their church's ideals. They are honorable in all their dealings, respectful, and eager to share their goddess gifts with those who would receive them.

Monks of Ardarvia strive to craft themselves into a form pleasurable to their goddess, working themselves towards a ever refining physical and spiritual ideal. A number of unusual fighting styles have originated in the monasteries and convents of these faithful, mostly involving the ability to fight while bound or blind, using their bindings as an integral part of their fighting styles. Most orders use sensory deprivation during training training, making their overall senses that much more acute and sensitive, and growing able to "read" the flow of air around themselves, or even using the minuscule vibrations transmitted through the floor to gain stock of their surroundings.

Planar Followers[edit]

An ever growing number of angels and other celestial beings continue to voluntarily come into Ardarvia´s service, either driven by their own desires, or by a need for cleansing and purifying rituals of penance. Many archons find comfort in Ardarvia's strict service, their immortal natures allowing them to endure extended periods of time in complete, immobilizing bondage to show Ardarvia the eagerness of their service, making for heavenly beautiful, living sculptures that line up the halls and gardens of Ardarvia´s homes and temples in the upper realms.

Among the most famous of Ardarvia's angels is the planetar warrior, Exquisite Lament. This statuesque, green-skinned angel is well known among the faithful for her tireless devotion to her goddess and to the mortals under her protection. This defender of the church has also been noted for her incredible compassion, and particularly for her eagerness to instill confidence in the meek. It has also been chronicled that she has often offered herself a slave to mortal masters, for a short time at least by the way beings such as her perceive time, in order to help him or her grow in expertise and understanding of both the submissive and dominant aspects of the faith.

The angels who have sworn themselves to Ardarvia can seem frightening to some, yet they are as benign as any of their more conventional kin.

Ardarvia also counts a number of risen fiends amongst her servants' ranks, each of them saved and fully sanctified by the arduous rituals of penance that carried them from their damned state to one of elevated salvation. The most notable being the marilith Urnsanei. Her leather-bound form, with her lower arms bound behind her in permanent prayer, her upper set missing, has become an icon of religious significance not only to repentant, formerly evil mortals, but also to those who hear the siren song of one of the most controversial of Ardarvia's sacraments, the Sacrifice.


The followers of Ardarvia share most of the enemies that their fellow worshippers of good and lawful deities fight against, though their priority and reason for fighting may differ.

Slavers of the unwilling are treated as blasphemers by much of the clergy, who see the practice as a mockery of their sacraments. Some suspect that this hatred also stems from shame over Ardarvia's past, or even in the roots of their own faith. Regardless of the reasoning, Ardarvians strive relentlessly to either free slaves or to subvert slaving practices to their own ends.

Mindless undead are universally despised by Ardarvians, particularly for their unnatural chaining of souls. Most intelligent undead are seen in the same light, particularly those with the ability to turn living victims into undead slaves. While most followers of Ardarvia strive to destroy these pitiful creatures so that their souls may pass on to their just reward or punishment, some sects acknowledge the existence of non-evil intelligent undead. What must be done with such beings is a matter of much debate within the church, much as it is in others. However, the existence of Ardarvian methods of purification and redemption for fiends has led to a higher frequency of opportunities for repentant undead to find their way into the houses of the holy. Some are given similar treatment and trials as repentant fiends. The most common results of these trials however, are either their willing imprisonment in specially made vaults, as eternal ascetics in Ardarvia's name, or the willing ritual cleansing and destruction of their undead forms, offering their souls directly into Ardarvia's forgiving, binding embrace. Exceptions do exist, but they are incredibly rare.

Of particular note is the vehement hatred between Ardarvians and the Helotry of Xiombarg. The two faiths, so similar and so diametrically opposed, see each other as perversion of their own beliefs. The often explosive rivalry between the two groups has for the most part not helped the reputation of Ardarvians, who are all too often mistaken for or confused with the Helots and Cerebrectomists of Xiombarg. While some Ardarvians strive to lead members of the Helotry towards redemption, many are fearful of their seductive, corrupting influence upon their own faithful. The fact that the Helotry of Xiombarg's and the Ardarvian's tactics are of little use against each other only further inflames the rivalry between the two.

New Domain[edit]


  • 1st - Sanctuary
  • 2nd - Hold Person
  • 3rd - Sheathing
  • 4th - Black Tentacles
  • 5th - Hold Monster
  • 6th - Geas
  • 7th - Mass Sheathing
  • 8th - Binding
  • 9th - Imprisonment

New Spells[edit]


School: conjuration (creation); cleric 3, paladin 2

Casting Time: 1 standard action

Components: V, S, DF

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Target: one humanoid creature

Duration: 1 round/level (D); see text

Saving Throw: REFLEX negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes

Black, rubbery material made of manifest darkness comes into being, quickly enveloping the target. If the target is caught by it, they are almost instantly encased entirely by the substance, binding them. The target does not immediately fall prone if they manage to pass a balance check, but they are otherwise completely helpless unless they can tear free with a successful STR check or Escape Artist attempt. When sheathed, the target is rendered helpless.

The substance allows air in and out, allowing the captured target to breathe. The binding tightness of the sheath also prevents speech.

The sheath has hardness 8 and 20 hit points.

Up to forty percent of the sheath can be carefully cut away, allowing the target to possibly see and speak, without compromising the binding strength of the sheath.

This spell can be made permanent.

Sheathing, Mass[edit]

School: conjuration (creation); cleric 7

Casting Time: 1 full round

Components: V, S, DF

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Area: 20-ft. radius burst

Target: all humanoid creatures in burst

Duration: 1 hour/level (D); see text

Saving Throw: REFLEX negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes

Mass Sheathing functions as Sheathing, except where noted above.

Sustaining Sheath[edit]

School: conjuration (creation); cleric 3

Casting Time: 1 full round

Components: V, S, DF

Range: Touch

Target: one humanoid creature

Duration: 1 day/level(D); see text

Saving Throw: REFLEX negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes

Sustaining Sheath functions much like Sheathing, except that the sheath provides not only air to the target, but also magically sustains them, allowing them to go without food and water for the duration of the spell.

The sustaining effect also protects the target against the effects of extreme hot or cold weather. It continues to provide air even if the sheathed target is submerged in water.

The caster can dispel this spell at will.

This spell can be made permanent upon the moment of casting, if both caster and target wish it so. Otherwise, it can be extended uninterruptedly by being cast again. Notice that the target gets a new saving throw against this extension, albeit with a -1, cumulative penalty, due to the effects of prolonged immobilization.

Chain Puppet[edit]

School: conjuration (creation); cleric 5, sorcerer/wizard 5

Casting Time: 1 full round

Components: V, S, DF

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Target: one humanoid creature

Duration: 1 round/level (D); see text

Saving Throw: REFLEX negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes

The caster conjures a mass of floating chains above a humanoid target. Four chains ending with shackles lunge towards the target, attempting to lock onto their wrists and ankles.

If the attack is successful, the target is now a living, shackled puppet of the chainmass. As long as the spell is active, the caster may give a simple command much as he would to a golem. The chains attempt to force the target to act out these commands. The target can attempt to resist with a STR check, resulting in no action being taken by the chains. The target may also continue to attempt to break or slip free with STR checks or Escape Artist checks, but this results in no resistance of commands for that round.

Chain Binding[edit]

School: conjuration (creation); cleric 4, paladin 3

Casting Time: 1 standard action

Components: V, S, DF

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level) (Targets must be within 10 feet of each other)

Target: one humanoid creature

Duration: 1 hour/level (D); see text

Saving Throw: REFLEX negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes

A double manacled chain is conjured into being between two targets within 10 feet of each other. Each end attempts to lock onto one of each target's limbs. If they are successful, the chain joining the manacles magically shrinks, drawing the targets closer together.

As long as the chain is in place, the two targets are unable to move further away from each other than another adjacent square. One target can attempt to pull another with an appropriate STR check, using a standard action for that round.

New Prestige Classes[edit]

Supplicant of Ardarvia[edit]

The Supplicant of Ardarvia, rather than making themselves scourges of evil and maintainers of order and law, take the role of ultimate submissives, allowing themselves to be used by the members of the Ardarvian clergy as examples of service in good faith, submission to the higher powers - in some cases the Highest Power - as a dedication of faith in the ways of their goddess. These Supplicants are often mistaken for the adherents of a terrible goddess of pain and torture and destruction, the Helotry of Xiombarg. It becomes very quickly apparent that these Supplicants are quite different; they are adherents to the Rule of Law, the dedication to serve as a means to better others, and the defense of the helpless. Many Supplicants started their careers as "Whipping Boys", young men or women who were companions to noble children and beloved by them, and who took the whippings for punishment that the nobles were supposed to receive when they did wrong as children. Others are often repentant converts who wish to make the ultimate sacrifice accepted by their goddess in order to make amends for their past deeds.

Becoming a Sacrificed or a Supplicant is seen as the ultimate show of devotion by many Ardarvians, and it is not something entered into lightly. The church will refuse and warn away any initiates who are spiritually unprepared for such a life, and those who are seen as legitimate candidates undertake a long period of preparation before being considered for the ritual.

This is perhaps one of the most controversial facets of the Ardarvian faith, and as such is not highly publicized by the church. A Sacrificed or a Supplicant who wishes to be restored may request it. The request is rarely denied, but it does incur some fitting penalties for having squandered Ardarvia's gifts and sacraments.

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Requirements: Lawful, worshipper of Ardarvia, Minimum BAB +5 Skills: 2+Int modifier (Heal, Spot, Listen, Escape Artist, Knowledge Religion, Knowledge Arcana, Spellcraft, Diplomacy, Sense Motive)

1st Level: No increase in Spellcasting ability for a spellcaster. The Supplicant of Ardarvia gains the ability to take on the hurts of others. They gain the ability to cast "Shield Other" as a spell-like ability at will. They also gain a +2 inherent bonus to Con. They also gain Deathwatch as a permanent spell effect; this effect is considered a Supernatural ability.

2nd Level: Increase in Spellcasting ability, but no class ability increases. They also gain the supernatural ability to use the Status spell on anyone within 60' as a move equivalent action.

3rd level: Another increase in Spellcasting Ability. Their inherent bonus to Constitution increases to +4.

4th level: No increase in Spellcasting ability. The Supplicant is granted the ability to attempt to restore life to a character who has died no more than 1 round previous. They may use this ability to Revivify (or the Breath of Life spell) as a Spell Like Ability once per day; this increases to twice per day at 5th level; this also increases the time the character has been dead to two rounds. They may only attempt this once per body, and may only successful do so if the spirit is willing to return. This ability has no effect on undead. Success means the deceased has returned to life with one hit point. Any uncast spells they had memorized are retained if they are a spellcaster. Spells that have been cast are still lost.

5th level: Increase in Spellcasting ability. The Supplicant is granted the ability to negate the death of another by accepting the damage to themselves instead. As an immediate action, when someone is put into negative hit points, the Supplicant may instead instantly transfer all of the damage suffered to himself while the victim suffers none; no magical protection can prevent the Supplicant from taking this damage, and any effects, poisons, or status effects associated with the damage are also transferred. The Supplicant's inherent bonus to Con increases again, to +6.

Bear in mind that inherent bonuses do not stack, so the Supplicant cannot benefit from either a Tome of Gainful Exercise or whatever the con-increasing one is, nor can he benefit from wishes to increase his con score.

Sacrificed of Ardarvia[edit]

The Sacrificed

One of the most sacred - and most secret - mysteries of the Church of Ardarvia is the Sacrificed. The parable of the First Sacrificed was that of a handsome young noble who was prone to deep depressions and very dark moods. He was in normal states a very effective leader of his people and concerned with the well being of his folk. however, when these dark moods took him, he could be cruel, even vicious. Eventually, he fell prey to a dark urge, and mutilated a serving girl. When the girl expired, he found that his horrible - and shockingly expert - torture and mutilation of her body had alleviated the black mood. Soon he was driven to such deeds, at least two or three times a year.

One day, the young noble was weeping in a courtyard, and the clergyman of the household overheard him. The elderly priest had long suspected something wrong, but there was little he could do - the young man outranked him and had not been actually caught at his predation. After swearing a vow of secrecy, the priest listened to the horrifying tale and he succored the young man as best he could. Bound by his vow and by his loyalty to the noble household, the priest feared there was little he could do, but pray.

After several long and largely sleepless nights, the priest was given a vision - or perhaps a visitation - of the Exquisite Lament. the angel dried the priest's tears, and spoke with him at length, giving him instruction. When the priest rose, he found upon his altar a set of long white ribbons of silk so fine no mortal could have woven it, several knives of gleaming sunset-colored steel, and a saw of palest silver.

He spoke to the lord of the manor at length, and explained what he had been told and what must be done, not just for the safety of the household, but for the sake of the young noble's soul. The tearful nobleman agreed, and the priest sent for three acolytes and the nobleman's son. When the youth arrived in the chapel, the priest explained to him what Exquisite Lament had told him. The youth's heart was pure, but his body was diseased, and there would be no curing the need of his limbs for pain and murder. So, he would be given a choice. He could join a cloister, and give up his nobility and rank, and live in quiet suffering for the rest of his days....or he could give up his limbs and remove their hunger for pain and blood at the source. The priest did mention one other thing - he had been told that if the young man chose the latter, he would be blessed and protected by the goddess herself, in light of his devotion and his rank.

When the deed was done, the youth was alive, and sleeping, while the saw had rent through bone, and the knives had removed flesh. The ribbons of silk were forever stained black; such was the tainted blood from the youth's possessed limbs.

Since then, the faith has quiet accepted the Sacrificed, who dedicate their lives to protection, teaching, and the rooting out of evil in all things that it may be exposed to truth and healed.

Requirement: Able to manifest psionic powers of 3rd level, or cast arcane or divine spells of 3rd level; Religion 8 ranks (5 in Pathfinder); be a member in good standing of the Church of Ardarvia.

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1st Level: No casting ability gain. The Sacrificed has all limbs removed. This results in no hit point loss or con drain, unlike most such operations, as the ritual is done with clerical help and expert chirurgeons. Restoration of the limbs results in a loss of all abilities and powers other than spellcasting/manifesting increases of this PrC class. The Sacrificed gains the (Su) ability to manifest a variant of the Astral Construct power three times per day. This power is treated as though the Sacrificed was a metacreative psion of his caster level and spent power points equal to his caster level. This Construct - the Body - lasts for 2 hours per Sacrificed level. The only ability selects that can be taken for the construct are those pertaining to its defense or protective qualities, or its hit points/dice. It can no offensive capability at all, and cannot be made to attack anyone or anything. Two of it's limbs must carry the Sacrificed at all times. If it has more than two limbs, it can hold or carry objects or manipulate things at the behest of the Sacrificed, but can take no offensive actions. The sacrificed also gains Eschew Materials and Still Spells as bonus feats if they are spellcasters; psychics gain Skill Focus: Concentration and Psionic Dodge as bonus feats. These bonus feats cannot be changed.

2nd level: Increase in casting ability/manifesting ability; the Sacrificed gains the ability to cast/manifest the power Telekinetic Force at will as a move action, but the duration is concentration only.

3rd Level: Increase in spellcasting/manifesting ability. By speaking in a calm, reasonable tone of voice to someone who is not engaged in violence, the Sacrificed can inflict a Charm Monster effect on the individual, as if he had cast the spell. He may do this once per day.

4th Level: Spellcasting/manifesting ability increase. The Sacrificed gain the ability to cast Spectral Hand as a (Su) ability 3 times per day. this hand has all the attributes of the spell, but it can transfer spells, powers, or spell like abilities. It cannot transfer supernatural or extraordinary abilities.

5th Level: No caster level increase. Instead, the Sacrificed gains the Grace of Ardarvia, which gives him a permanent Deflection Bonus to AC equal to his Charisma Bonus, and a permanent Luck bonus to his saving throws equal to his casting/manifesting ability score. This is a Supernatural ability.

A Novitiate's Trial: The House of the Chained Archon[edit]

The House of the Chained Archon has been a focal point of the Ardarvian clergy of Tovain for four centuries. Located on a secluded mountainside, this castle's construction began at the order of an infamous despot who was overthrown by an alliance of various goodly faiths, the church of Ardarvia among them, well before its completion. While most of the members of the alliance took positions of power in order to reestablish order and stability in the region, the Ardarvians claimed the castle alone.

They quickly cleansed it, sanctified the site, and re-purposed it to become the hub of their church in the area. It was renamed to honor the trumpet archon who came to the alliance's aid during the despot's last stand, and as such is dedicated to the strict adherence and respect of the Rule of Law.

The House of the Chained Archon is the destination for new members of Ardarvia's clergy in the Tovain region. Potential novices are warned of what to expect and guided to the castle by confirmed priests. New arrivals are greeted at the courtyard gates, and warned one final time that they are expected to leave their old lives behind for the duration of their trials.

Those willing to go on are allowed entrance into the courtyard, filled with lush gardens and all manner of delights foreign to their eyes. Dallying to look upon them however draws a swift rebuke to set them back on the path to the castle proper.

Within the castles worked stone halls, its tapestries of the endless chains of dominance and subservience stretching from heaven to earth, goddess to angel, immortal to mortal, noble to peasant, the novices begin their new life. All of their possessions are taken away, to be returned to them only when they are ready to leave the castle. They are disrobed and ritually cleansed, their bodies left bare to teach both humility and acceptance of themselves. Their hair is cut off. Alchemical treatments are applied to their scalps to prevent it from growing back without magical or alchemical restoration.

When the novices are prepared, they are presented to a group of low ranking priests in the main hall, before the silver and steel representation of the Iron Maiden herself. Each novice is first approached by a priest who wishes to claim them for the duration of their training. The novice must willingly give himself or herself away, in order for the bond to be officially recognized. Elder priests oversee the ritual, to ensure that both priest and novice speak true to their thoughts and desires.

Once the bond is complete, the novice is collared, their leash in their new master's hand. They are led to their respective priest's quarters after their confirmation as master and slave. For the next year, as the novice's needs are the priest's responsibility, the priest's pleasure and wishes are the novice's. The novice is afforded only what comforts, these being clothing or other luxuries, their master or mistress sees fit to give them. The priest is required to be properly respectful and careful with their charge, however, and there is much oversight to guarantee the novices are well treated. Health needs, for example, are never denied under any circumstances.

During this period, the novice is put through rigorous training, as much for physical pleasure as it is for spiritual growth. Strenuous work in the gardens and halls of the castle, various exotic torments, and the denial of pain or pleasure as their master or mistress decrees. They are taught respect, both for their superiors and kindred, and gifted with humility and perspective on what it truly means to serve.

Those who have , or grow to have, the spiritual strength, are released from their bondage only at the end of the trial. Those who fail to complete the trial, but allow for it, are granted a mark, signifying their attempt at approaching their goddess' glory, and for reassurance that they are still loved, despite their shortcomings.

Those novices that successfully finished their year-long trial, continue to receive further, intense training from the elder priests in the vaulted dungeons beneath the castle. Eventually, their arduous and continuous tests elevate them to the rank of acolyte.

The acolytes are individually confirmed once they are prepared to move on with their training. A small, circular portion of their scalp is alchemically treated to allow hair to grow. They are afforded the attire of initiates, both the clothing and piercings they've earned to show their progress as they continue to learn the ways of their goddess.

The acolytes remain bonded to their master or mistress within the clergy, and remain submissive to them, but now they rank above novices, and are as such afforded some dominance over them, although only that which is granted by their masters. This small amount of power is carefully monitored, to make sure that the acolyte understands the gravity and importance of such a gift. Failure to respect that power and a novice's position draws swift and sharp punishment.

The acolytes duties change to matters slightly less menial. They are now tasked with organizing and guiding novices. They are charged with aiding their masters in training, rewarding, and punishing of any novice assigned to that master. It is not unusual for a priest to have possession of multiple acolytes, as the increased freedoms they are granted means that the master needs focus less on their needs than they would with a new novice in their care.

It is during this period that most acolytes begin to understand which path in the clergy they are best suited for, be it the path of the missionary, ascetic, priest, paladin, or monk.

Once the acolyte has been judged fit to continue with their training, they are granted increased freedom, but also new responsibilities.

They may now leave the castle walls at the side of their master, to do what work must be done in the outside world. They act as assistants and servants as the priests travel to their local centers of worship, to work amongst the people, and to aid those who need it. Their humility, pride, and respect for their station is reinforced in the face of the public's watchful eye, tempered by an understanding that they serve Ardarvia not only for the sake of others as much as their own.

Acolytes outside the castle walls might face more risks, but their safety is the sacred responsibility of their masters, whom are expected not to place their charges into dangerous situations, and face harsh reprimands for failing to live up to that bond of trust.

Eventually, the acolyte has experienced enough to begin confirmation as a full priest in Ardarvia's service. The trials to earn this status are trying, far more so than the ones they have experienced up to this point.

The acolyte and his or her master or mistress are left alone for seven days and nights. During this time, the priest puts their charge through the highest torments and pleasures they can muster, having now learned the limits of their faithful, voluntary slaves.

After the last night and the final lash, the acolyte is released and given two days to heal and recover. The priest or priestess then hands their charge the whip, and declares that the acolyte is now his or her master or mistress, entrusted to do as they see fit.

For seven days and nights, the roles are reversed. The acolyte acts as the master, the priest as the slave. They are closely observed by their elder priests, who watch with care and judge the acolyte's progress. There is a wide range of success. Some acolytes are revealed to be primarily submissive, some primarily dominant, and some even show both aspects of Ardarvia's glory. The test is not to see which of these aspects the acolyte leans to, however, but to ensure that they understand what it means to be a dominant and a submissive, and that they have proper respect and care for both stations in life.

If the acolyte fails, they must start their training anew.

If successful, the acolyte is confirmed as a priest. The master and slave are officially released from their oaths, but free to renew them if they wish it so.

The new priest are then granted their vestments of priesthood, the leather coif of their order, and a whip anointed in Ardarvia's name, and their hair is restored if they wish it so. They are then granted a place of full honor as equals amongst their brothers and sisters, regardless of their preference to serve or dominate.

A new priest is not yet permitted to train new novices so soon after their own confirmation, still lacking the experience needed to be a proper teacher. They are instead tasked with work in the outside world for various years, carrying out the will of the church, and expected to do whatever tasks and deeds they find need doing.

The priest is always welcomed home, however, to find peace or pleasure amongst their brethren for a time before returning to their duties.

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