Before I get started, here’s a quick word from our sponsor… Me! If you’d like to see me running an Eberron game, Fugue State is live Wednesdays at 7:30 PM Pacific for the next few weeks (and you can see previous sessions at that site). If you’d like a chance to play in my ongoing monthly Eberron game, check out the Threshold level of my Patreon. Likewise, the amount of time I have for this site and the subjects of the articles I write are all tied to Patreon, so if you’d like to support the site, that’s the place to do it!
Anyone who’s been to a church of the Silver Flame has seen the image of Tira and the couatl. But what are the couatls, and what do people actually know about them? How can you encounter them in the present day?
What are Couatls?
Couatls are native celestials, the last children of Siberys. They were born in the first age of the world, and they helped the mortal species of that time in their struggles against the fiendish overlords. The balance of power dramatically favored the fiends, and the children of Siberys realized that the only path to victory was through sacrifice. Working together, the native celestials abandoned their individual forms and fused their immortal essence together, creating a well of pure divine energy. As the dragons and other mortals defeated the overlords, this Silver Flame was able to bind them. Since that point, the Flame has been strengthened by the addition of millions of mortal souls, but it began with the sacrifice of the native celestials, and that immortal essence is the foundation of the Flame.
The question of the imbalance of power between fiends and celestials is one that is often discussed by sages and theologians. Why are fiends found across the world, while the celestials seemingly abandoned it… especially when planes such as Shavarath and Daanvi have a more even division between fiends and celestials? In his Codex of All Mysteries, Korran asserts that the answer is simple: Khyber slew Siberys. Through treachery, Khyber slew Siberys even before the world was formed and the native celestials are a reflection of the final spark of Siberys. In that time so long ago, the native celestials realized that as the balance of power tilted so dramatically toward the fiends that what they could accomplish as isolated individuals was trivial. But in fusing their essence into one great gestalt they could generate a power that could at least bind the overlords, and which could empower mortals to battle the fiends themselves. This ties to a crucial underlying theme of the setting: Eberron is a world that needs heroes. The Silver Flame is the greatest force of light in the world, but it cannot act on its own; it depends on mortal champions to carry its light against the darkness. A small handful of independent celestials remain in the world, and this will be discussed later in this article. But the bulk of celestial power in Eberron is concentrated into the Silver Flame—a tool and a weapon for mortals to wield.
Now, couatls aren’t the only form of native celestial. But just as the rakshasa are the most common form of fiend, the couatls are the most common form of celestial on Eberron. Any other form of celestial could potentially be used as a native celestial, but most such spirits will share some cosmetic elements with couatl: prismatic coloring, feathers, serpentine characteristics. So a native deva might have rainbow-feathered wings and fine iridescent scales. Why these traits? One theory is that this is a reflection of Siberys himself; the nation of Khalesh used a banner that showed Eberron and Khyber as dragons entwined, with Siberys as a winged serpent encircling the struggling wyrms. This is purely speculative, the coloring and other traits are common among native celestials and are sometimes inherited by mortal creatures infused with celestial energy, such as the Shulassakar or aasimar tied to the Silver Flame.
One complication in dealing with couatls is their shifting power level in different editions of Dungeons&Dragons. The 3.5 couatl had a challenge rating of 10, with the note that it was possible to encounter a huge couatl with up to three times as many hit dice as that CR 10 version. However, the 5E Monster Manual presents the couatl as a fairly minor celestial, with a Challenge rating of 4. The trick is that in Eberron, “couatl” is like “rakshasa”—it’s a category, spanning spirits with a wide range of power. Looking to the rakshasa, not only are there different classes—the standard rakshasa, the ak’chazar, the naztharune, the zakya—but you also have unique individuals with far greater power than the rank and file. Just as Mordakhesh is dramatically more powerful than the typical Zakya rakshasa, the couatl Hezcalipa (the ally and mentor of the dragon Ourelonastrix, who might be the inspiration for the Sovereign Aureon) was dramatically more powerful than a typical CR 4 couatl. But what do you do with this in fifth edition, which only provides statistics for the CR 4 couatl? There’s a few options.
- Reskin other celestials. Couatl aren’t the only native celestials. You could introduce a deva or a ki-rin as a child of Siberys. But you could also take the stat block of one of these more powerful celestials and just describe the entity as a winged serpent instead of as a winged humanoid or golden-scaled beast. A deva attacks with a mace, inflicting 1d6+4 bludgeoning damage plus 4d6 radiant damage; you can have the deva-couatl attack with a bite that deals 1d6+4 piercing damage and “floods their body with radiant venom” which deals 4d6 radiant damage. Yes, this is different from the poison effect of the CR 4 couatl, and the deva doesn’t have the ability to constrict its foe; but just as not all serpents constrict or produce venom, not all couatl do either. So make the simplest changes—swapping the bludegoning damage of the mace to piercing for fangs, because that’s obvious—but otherwise, just change the way you describe the creature and its attacks. This doesn’t have to be limited to celestials; you could easily take the guardian naga stat block, change it from monstrosity to celestial, and describe it as a wingless couatl.
- Blend old and new. You can follow the same basic idea, but actually change a few abilities to more closely reflect the couatl. It makes sense that any form of couatl would have the Shielded Mind trait of the CR 4 couatl. For a couatl ki-rin you could describe the Horn attack as a bite attack (which just doesn’t produce venom), but replace the two hoof attacks of the ki-rin with a single Constrict attack, following the model of the CR 4 couatl—perhaps raising the DC to escape to DC 17, reflecting the Ki-rin/Couatl’s higher CR and Strength. Likewise, you could swap out spells on the Ki-Rin’s spell list to include all the spells on the CR 4 couatl’s spell list. But overall, you can still us the ki-rin stat block to reflect the more powerful creature.
- Create something new. If you have the time, you can use the CR 4 as a blueprint to create your own unique powerful couatl. It’s not something *I* have time to do right now, but I think it makes perfect sense to create couatl with distinct abilities—a loremaster couatl (such as Hezcalipa), perhaps a warlike couatl guardian shrouded in (silver) flame.
Likewise, keep in mind that couatl don’t have to be as powerful as the CR 4 version! A Celestial warlock with the Chain pact could have a tiny couatl as a familiar. Use the statistics of a pseudo-dragon, but describe it as a couatl; this has the same relationship to a standard couatl that an imp does to a more powerful devil. Remember that as celestials, couatls are essentially divine tools and ideas given form. The tiny couatl is simply a minor spirit of light; it’s not biologically related to the more powerful couatl.
This ties to one other point, which is that immortals are tools and concepts. They exist for a reason, and they don’t choose that path as mortals can. The tiny couatl familiar exists to advise the warlock; you could play it as a minor spirit of wisdom or as a guardian angel. But every couatl has a purpose and/or embodies a concept. Where the immortals of the planes embody concepts tied to their planes (War, Hope, Law, etc) the immortals of Eberron are more broadly “good” and “evil.” In creating a specific couatl, a DM could decide that it’s a spirt of truth, or courage, or wisdom—and play its personality accordingly. Swapping out spells is another simple way to reflect this and give a particular couatl some unique flavor.
What Do People Know About Couatls?
Anyone in a nation where the Silver Flame has a presence is familiar with the basic idea of the couatls—their appearance and the fact that they’re celestial emissaries of the Silver Flame. In this, they are much like angels in OUR world; almost everyone can look at a picture of one and say “That’s an angel,” but not everyone believes they exist, and even those people who DO believe they exist don’t generally expect to meet one. Couatls are part of the mythology of the Silver Flame. Tira Miron was guided by a couatl, and the templars use rainbow fletching on their arrows to emulate the swift-flying couatl. Couatls are often also part of the manifestations of divine magic tied to the Silver Flame. When a cleric of the Flame casts spirit guardians, the guardians are often couatl-like shapes formed of silver fire. Summon celestial and planar ally typically manifest couatls or other creatures with couatl-like attributes. These spells aren’t commonplace, but the point is that people associate couatls with the Silver Flame, and if they see one they will say “That’s a couatl! Like the one that guided Tira!” as opposed to “What’s that?”
With that said, Khorvaire’s Church of the Silver Flame isn’t actually that old… and couatls have been known since the dawn of time. Anyone proficient in History or Religion may know that couatls have been revered by many cultures. As mentioned earlier, the pre-Sundering nation of Khalesh in Sarlona was devoted to the celestial serpents. The orc kala’sha paladins of Ghaash’kala often tattoo a couatl wound around one of their arms; they know the couatl as emmissaries of the Binding Flame.
So almost everyone in the Five Nations knows what a couatl is. Again, think of it as analgous to angels in our world. Anyone can recognize a picture of one, but it’s going to take a Religion check to explain the difference between a cherub or a seraph.
Silvertide and Serpent Cults
So: in kanon, everyone knows what a couatl is. Everyone’s seen that picture of Tira and the couatl. However, canon has some inconsistencies in this regard. On the one hand, page 70 of City of Stormreach says this of a priest…
He only speaks of it to his most trusted parishioners, but (the priest) practices the traditions of an ancient serpent cult, passed down to his father by a feathered yuan-ti. Although the values are similar to those of the modern church, this faith teaches that the Silver Flame was kindled by the sacrifice of the couatls in the dawn times; Tira Miron and the Keeper of the Flame are stewards who bring the light of the Flame to humans too limited to see the ancient force on their own. Guin has served as an intermediary for the shulassakar yuan-ti in the past, and this could serve as the basis for an adventure.
This isn’t the heresy that has caused the Stormreach church to be severed from Flamekeep; the section specifies that it’s the opposition to the theocracy that’s the major problem, and the quote here specifies that the priest only speaks of his beliefs to those close to him. It’s not that these beliefs are heretical, but they are unusual. However, the 4E Eberron Campaign Guide introduces the concept of Silvertide, saying “This highest holy day of the faith celebrates the sacrifice of the couatls and the birth of the Silver Flame.” So Stormreach says that the idea of the couatl sacrifice is a secret the priest only shares with his most trusted friends, while the ECG says it’s the basis of the most important holy day the church has. How do we reconcile this contradiction?
The Age of Demons ended a hundred thousand years ago, the precise details of what happened then frankly aren’t as important to most of the people of Khorvaire as the things that happened a few centuries ago. In my opinion, the tales of the Age of Demons and the story of Tira’s sacrifice can be seen as similar to the Old and New Testaments. While the two are directly related, different religions place different weight on the two books. The Serpent Cults are primarily interested with the ORIGINAL story and see Tira’s sacrifice as a recent and relatively minor development. But to the people of the Five Nations, Tira’s sacrifice is the most important story, because it happened to them. Tira saved the people of Thrane from a fiendish apocalypse, and as the Voice of the Flame, she continues to guide them today. They know the general stories about how the Flame was kindled in the dawn of time to bind the overlords and they are grateful for that first sacrifice, but it’s just too long ago to have deep personal meaning; while Tira is the Voice that speaks to them today, and her sacrifice is the reason Thrane even exists.
With this in mind, you can see how I describe the festival of Silvertide on my ongoing Threshold campaign. A key point is that the priest doesn’t actually describe that original sacrifice as the COUATL sacrifice, because those details are largely irrelevant; she speaks of the battle between the forces of light and darkness and of the sacrifice of those first champions to kindle the Flame. Because the LESSON of Silvertide is the power of sacrifice—to respect the first champions whose sacrifice lit the Flame; Tira, whose sacrifice allows us all to draw upon it; and anyone whose sacrifices have made a difference in your own personal life. A key part of the festival is to call out and honor sacrifices others have made for you, and to consider what sacrifices you can make for others. So as the ECG says, it IS a festival that honors the couatl sacrifice; but it honors the SACRIFICE, not the COUATL.
This brings us to the idea of serpent cults. A number of canon sources describe serpent cults—sects found across the world and throughout history. What differentiates a serpent cult from a Silver Flame faith is the direct focus on the couatl as opposed to the Flame. A Flame sect focuses on the Silver Flame as it exists today—a conglomeration of countless noble souls of many species. Most honor the couatl as emissaries and servants of the Flame, but they are secondary to the Flame itself. A serpent cult focuses on the couatl, honoring them as the first children of Siberys and emphasizing their role in creating the Flame. Serpent cults often downplay the idea that other creatures can join the Flame and instead emphasize the Flame as the pure light of the couatl. Looking at key named sects, the Sarlonan nation of Khalesh was a serpent cult devoted to the couatl; the Ghaash’kala, on the other hand, are a Flame sect. They may call it the Binding Flame instead of the Silver Flame, but it is the FLAME that they honor above all; couatl are its tools.
So looking back to Stormreach, again, the priest’s beliefs aren’t dire heresy; they’re just unorthodox views that most followers of the modern Church don’t share or care about. To the typical Thrane parishoner, emphasizing that the first sacrifice was entirely couatl would be a slightly eccentric belief that undermines the moral of the story—that we all have the power to make a difference through our sacrifices, and that any noble soul can strengthen the Flame. This is reflected in the original statement on page 303 of the Eberron Campaign Setting…
Ultimately the couatls sacrificed most of their number in order to seal the overlords within their combined souls. Scholars have theorized that this is the ultimate source of the force worshiped by the Church of the Silver Flame. The Church ministry is ambivalent about this theory, stating that regardless of how the Flame was first kindled, there is a place within the Flame for all noble souls.
There’s three main ways to encounter a couatl in the present age.
Ancient Guardian. The quote from the ECS states that most of the couatl joined together to found the Flame. Most isn’t all; a handful remained as incarnate individuals to accomplish vital tasks that couldn’t be entrusted to mortals. Keep in mind that they use mortal agents when they can—the shulassakar, the Masivirk’uala lizardfolk, and the Ghaash’kala, even Tira Miron are all examples of this. A few reasons you might need an actual couatl are to preserve knowledge that can’t be trusted to a mortal; to oversee a project that will take many generations to unfold; do accomplish a task that requires the innate celestial powers of the couatl; or to guard an area that’s either too hostile, isolated, or corruptive to entrust to a mortal. An ancient guardian is an immortal who has existed since the Age of Demons; they don’t have heart demiplanes and typically are reborn in the location where they are destroyed, with the length of time this takes depending on the strength of the couatl and the manner in which it is destroyed. While they are incarnate spirits of light, the fact that they have usually existed in intense isolation can make these guardians more intense than their temporary counterparts; they often have tunnel vision tied to their vital task. A temporary couatl has watched humanity grow; a guardian may not have seen another living creature since before human civilization existed.
Temporary Emissary. When a priest of the Silver Flame casts summon celestial, they aren’t pulling a couatl from some other location in the world. Instead, the spirit is directly manifesting from the Silver Flame itself, and when its work is done it will return to the Flame. The Silver Flame is a mass of hundreds of thousands of souls, but within the Flame those spirits exist as a transcendent gestalt, not as individual personalities. When a temporary couatl manifests, it will employ the personality of one of the original couatl; this could allow adventurers to actually speak with Hezcalipa, for example. But Hezcalipa doesn’t exist as an individual while she’s part of the Flame, and her actions when she does appear are moderated by being part of that gestalt; she is first and foremost an emissary of the Flame, shaped by the memories of a couatl who sacrificed itself long ago.
Channeling and Visions. You don’t have to meet a couatl in the flesh. The CR 4 fifth edition couatl can cast dream, a useful tool for guiding and advising mortals. The 3.5 ECS also explored the idea of divine channeling…
A mortal who channels a celestial becomes a mortal manifestation of the celestial’s power. The celestial can draw on all the mortal’s memories, and the celestial senses what the mortal senses. The mortal and the celestial can communicate telepathically, but neither has complete access to the current thoughts of the other.
Looking to the tale of Tira Miron, the original idea was that most of the time Tira was channeling the couatl; it was guiding her, but it wasn’t just flying along next to her. In other places we’ve suggested that her guiding couatl was actually bound with her sword Kloijner. This is why in the image above, you can’t see the rainbow feathers of the couatl; it’s a spiritual presence. When it comes to a dream vision or channeling a couatl, there’s still the question of whether the spirit is an ancient guardian that has always been separate from the Flame or if it’s a temporary emissary sent out into the world to accomplish this task. In the case of emissaries, an emissary who grants dreams might never fully manifest as a physical couatl; think of it as an antenna extended from the Flame to broadcast a signal, after which it is retracted.
With any use of visions in dreams, a valid question is how this relates to Dal Quor. In my opinion, couatl visions don’t occur in Dal Quor; they effectively intercept the dreaming spirit before it reaches Dal Quor. This ties to the idea that they actually isolated the dreams of the Masvirik’uala, as described in this article. If you embrace this idea, it’s possible that they could actually give visions to mortal who sleep in some way but don’t actually dream, such as Kalashtar or elves—but that’s definitely up to the DM to decide. The general idea is that couatls have an affinity for mortal minds, something reflected in earlier editions by their psionic abilities; but they are native celestials, not creatures of Dal Quor. With that said, a scheming quori could definitely impersonating a couatl when manipulating someone with its own dream visions…
So, how can you encounter a couatl? You might find one as the guardian of an ancient vault, sworn to keep the cursed items within from falling into mortal hands… or to guide mortal champions to reclaim these deadly artifacts after the vault is breached. You could be visited by a couatl who has emerged from the Flame to assist you in overcoming a great threat, but it can only remain at your side for a brief time—or, potentially it can only assist you through dreams, or a moment of divine channeling. The main thing to keep in mind is that all of these are incredibly rare. There are only a handful of ancient guardians in existence, and they are dealing with tasks no mortal could handle. As for emissaries, the Silver Flame is a machine designed to do two things: to bind overlords and to empower mortal champions. Short term spells like summon celestial are part of that machine—tools that work through mortals and lasts briefly. For a couatl emissary to emerge from the Flame is like pulling a random gear off the machine; it’s difficult and potentially dangerous to the machine itself. It’s the sort of thing that happens to people like Tira Miron—heroes who can change the fate of the nation or the world. But overall, the Silver Flame deals with problems by empowering mortals, not by deploying celestials. This ties to that fundamental principle: Eberron is a world that needs heroes. The physical appearance of an emissary is a legendary event… but player characters have the potential to be legends.
That’s all for now! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.
I was under the impression that non-couatl souls joining the flame was a matter of faith. Does this mean you Kanonically can’t find a devoted Silver Flame worshipper in Dolurrh, as their soul has gone into the Flame?
No, it’s still a matter of faith. Souls go to Dolurrh and fade. Overall, vassals believe that the souls fade because they are transitioning to the realm of the Sovereigns. Followers of the Flame believe that noble souls can bond with the Flame after they fade… but if this is true, they become part of the transcendental gestalt and don’t retain their independent identity. Seekers believe that when souls fade from Dolurrh they are gone forever. There’s only one way to find out!
Tira Miron is a special case, but she didn’t die and her soul never went to Dolurrh; she bonded directly to the Flame.
So in describing the Flame as a gestalt of hundreds of thousands of souls, I’m speaking of what the faithful believe; but they could be entirely mistaken. In any case, what’s left in Dolurrh after the fade is a hush, and its existence has no bearing on the final fate of the soul.
Thanks Keith. So a faithful Thrane sees the fading in Dolurrh as a transitioning to the Flame… I wonder if the Librarian or Queen of the Dead find flamists asking when they “go back” amusing.
As far as we know, the Silver Flame is adequate for the task of keeping the overlords and especially powerful fiends bound in Khyber. If souls are joining with and empowering the Flame, would the strength of that binding start to increase, perhaps keeping progressively weaker fiends bound or increasing the difficulty of the prophetic escape hatches? Or, would it allow some couatls to reemerge as independent beings since the added souls would be adequate to pick up the slack for them?
If any of these things are happening, has anyone noticed? It seems like it would be a powerful point of evidence that souls are joining the Flame.
As far as we know, the Silver Flame is adequate for the task of keeping the overlords and especially powerful fiends bound in Khyber.
The idea that the Silver Flame was always good enough in the past, so if it’s gained souls since then the binding must be even stronger is a fallacy. We’ve established that the overlords themselves grow stronger as events in the material play to their core concepts… and more than that, mortals are USING the Silver Flame as a source of divine magic, which means they are drawing power away from the bonding to do so. It NEEDS to grow stronger in order to be able to provide divine magic to its champions without weakening the bonds to a dangerous level. So, the more mortals that join it, the more mortals who can safely channel its power without threatening the integrity of the binding, which is good if we assume that the mortal population is continuing to grow over time.
But all of this is ultimately an argument of faith. There hasn’t been a wave of couatls emerging as independent beings and there’s no simple way to measure the overall power level of the Flame or of the world’s fiends. The faithful of the Silver Flame believe they strengthen the Flame after passing through Dolurrh, but it’s not something that is known with absolute certainty.
Thanks for the reply! That makes a great deal of sense.
I have a few questions:
1) If the Couatls’ origin could be based off of what Siberys looked like (I understand that all of this is up for debate, and based on faith in the world), but would it be plausible that people (or at least one group of people/culture/religion) on Eberron would refer to the Ring of Siberys as “the World Serpent”? (As the World Serpent from Norse mythology circled the world, and the ring of Siberys circles the world and also could be the remnants of a serpentine creature). This isn’t really important, but I just thought it would be cool if that were feasible. Just wanted to hear your thoughts on it.
2) Granted that the Couatls imprisoned a lot of the Fiends in Khyber through theri sacrifice, is it also plausible that some fiends similarly imprisoned Couatls (and/or other celestials), which could be encountered/freed by adventurers?
3) If Eberron is inherently lopsided in favor of the fiends, in just plain terms of power, does this mean that there aren’t Archangels/Celestial Paragons in the world and planes of Eberron? (Or, at least, that there are less celestials equivalent in power to the Demon Overlords than there are Demon Overlords.)
4) If any Celestial Paragons/Archangels do exist, what would they look like in Eberron? (Maybe a Quetzalcouatl as a super-powerful-couatl Celestial Paragon?) What would they be up to? (Fighting in Shavarath, imprisoned by ancient magic, dormant/dead?)
I can offer some answers I remember from the books:
1) It’s plausible that someone would call him the world serpent, as a variant of the Progenitor Dragon telling, but the dragons themselves would not.
2) There’s at least one imprisoned couatl in canon; in Ashtakala there’s an imprisoned couatl that’s tortured for the fiends’ (and perhaps the city’s) amusement.
3) The rest of the planes are more equal. It’s only the Material that is so lopsided in terms of Good-Neutral-Evil distribution. Archangels and similarly strong celestials live on the planes, but their concern is their plane, not the Material. Ask a celestial of Daanvi or Irian to intervene in something happening on the Material and they’d say “So what? Mortals die, that’s their defining feature”.
4) It depends on the plane: A Daanvian “archangel” would be symmetrical with metallic wings, a Syranian angel of the same level might look like a more traditional angel in scholar’s robes, while a Fernian angel would likely have their hair and wings as fire. Again, they’d be concerned with their plane rather than the Material’s affairs.
Matthew is correct on all counts.
To add to what was said above, the planes were created before the material; the material was to be the final work of the Sovereigns. So the immortals of the plane (or at least their original forms and essences) were created before Khyber slew Siberys when the Sovereigns were in balance.
While they are the *native* celestials, they do seem to have an empathetic link to Irian. Would it be fair to say that a Couatl would naturally be drawn to an Irian manifest zone?
Also, how are they viewed in Sarlona and especially Riedra? Simply denied or unheard of?
(I have an idea for an Edgewalker who achieves some degree of revelation, via a couatl, of the true nature of the Inspired).
As a huge Sarlona fan, what I’ve read would point to Riedrans fearing the couatl as altavars, spirits of evil intent. That they’re connected heavily to Khalesh, one of the two original shared enemies of the uprisings in the Sundering (alongside the horrifying Ohr Kaluun) would not be a point in their favour
But! The Edgewalkers are said to have their origins in the remnants of Khalesh’s paladin orders. So their order, though serving the Quori, might have some influencing background entity or forbidden archives that lead your character to their revelation
Great advice and insight, thank you.
Matthew is correct. An important part of the Sundering was convincing the people of other provinces that Khalesh was dealing with evil, alien spirits; to the degree that Riedrans know anything about couatl, they would identify them as altavars. But certainly, a PC Edgewalker could uncover some Khaleshite lore or an artifact that reveals truth.
How do Couatl tie to the Draconic Prophecy? Can they read and interpret it like the Lords of Dust or the Dragons of the Chamber?
Moreover, how do the Lords and Dragons feel about Couatl? Do dragons still respect them as guides and do Lords see them as threats?
Lastly, are there examples of Rakshasa and Couatl existing as PLANAR creatures as well as natives? Could you for say find a Couatl existing as a manifestation of Syrania?
The couatl are/were allies of the dragons: They could read the Prophecy, but their aims are similar if not identical to the dragons’. Thus the dragons consider them allies and the LoD see them as threats or enemies.
Don’t know about the planar idea, but I’d lean to no, since the planes were constructed and the Material was/is a collapse of creation.
Agreed. Beyond that, the whole point of immortals is that they are flavored by their plane. I am inclined to say that rakshasa and couatls are only COMMON on the material, but if you really want a creature with the statistics of either to be found in the planes, go for it; but a couatl from Fernia would have feathers of flame instead of rainbow wings, while a Shavaran couatl could have steel scales.
Thanks Keith! Lovely topic.
A ponder that came to would be how limited couatl in shape are for you? Could there be a Hydra (with wings) that could be a couatl guardian (for a Heracles to slay).
What I say in the article is that native celestials often have couatl-like cosmetic attributes. So sure, you could have a rainbow-feathered celestial hydra. I’m not sure I’d technically call it a “couatl” though.
Have there been other fonts of the silver flame, and if so have any ever been extinguished?
Umbra could be one? It’s not unlike the silver flame, tho far less noble.
The Umbra is similar in concept to the Silver Flame, but it’s definitely not a font OF the Silver Flame; it’s an entirely separate metaphysical machine.
We know almost nothing about fonts, Voices, and Keepers of other cultures. We’ve called out that other cultures have had Voices and Keepers, and it’s not unreasonable to think that a Voice needs a font—that destroying the font in Flamekeep wouldn’t harm THE FLAME, but it might remove TIRA. As for if it’s ever happened before, over the course of a hundred thousand years, I’m sure it has—but there’s no recorded examples of it. If I was to quickly name one, I’d argue that there was likely a font/Voice in Khalesh that could ahve been destroyed during the Sundering.
Are you saying that the couatl spirits that exist within the Silver Flame are, essentially, inside some sort of hivemind or other gestalt consciousness, and that individual “couatl-spirits” that manifest from the Silver Flame are merely avatars of this gestalt consciousness that deliberately adopt the personality of specific couatls?
Essentially, yes. Within the Flame, spirits don’t exist as individuals. When an emissary is generated, it is formed from to overall essence of the Flame and borrows the memories and personality of one of the original couatl as a template.
Does this mean that Tira Miron does not exist as an individual within the Silver Flame?
Are there any other individuals who are 100% confirmed as being in the Silver Flame, other than couatls and Tira Miron?
Does this mean that Tira Miron does not exist as an individual within the Silver Flame?
That’s correct. Tira isn’t part of the Flame in the same way as one of the couatl or as a mortal soul who merges with the Flame. She’s a Voice of the Flame, which means that she remains outside of it and serves as a beacon to others—essentially boosting the signal of the Flame. This is why, following her sacrifice, Thrane swiftly developed a strong church with a host of divine casters; Tira is the voice that calls paladins and guides clerics in a way that the monolithic gestalt of the Flame itself cannot. Before anyone asks, the key point is that the Voice of the Flame has minimal POWER; but it is a force that can guide and inspire on a nearly subliminal level, again allowing people to bridge the gap that will allow them to draw on the divine magic of the Flame when they might otherwise be unable to do so.
Could you please explain the nature of the sword “Kloinjer”/”Kloijner”/”Flame’s Champion,” as you see it? Where is the sword? Is it in the chasm where the column of silver fire appears in Flamekeep, or has it been returned to the Demon Wastes? Does it still contain a couatl, or is that couatl inside the column of silver fire? What is the name of this couatl?
The sword is where the DM needs it to be for the game they’re running. Either of the answers you have there provides useful hooks that having a (c/k)anon answer would eliminate or restrict
You’ve described Khalesh as a celestial equivalent to the Demon Wastes – while we have at least some idea of what fiendish “civilization” looks like, what are some things you would highlight for a party making a trip through those grasslands?
If quori can masquerade as couatls in dreams, is there some sort of Silver Flame equivalent of the Sovereign Swords going on in the templars of the Silver Flame?
Certainly could be, IF the Dreaming Dark saw use in manipulating the Church. And if the story requires
The reason the Sovereign Swords work is because of the highly unstructured nature of the worship of the Sovereign Host. With the templars, you’re dealing with a highly regimented force within a structured organization that is actively concerned about fiendish influence and that has access to the finest exorcists in Khorvaire. Something like this could occur in some very isolated community, but if it happened in, say, Flamekeep, you’d immediately have inquisitors and/or Miron’s Tears investigating it. Among other things, couatl CAN send messages in dreams, but like I say, it doesn’t happen very often… and given their active concerns about the Whispering Flame and Bel Shalor, the central church will always investigate any such dramatic visions carefully.
With that said, if you want to tell a story about a huge quori conspiracy working from the top—Krozen’s inspired!—don’t let me stop you.
How much does serpent and rainbow feather iconography factor into the Church of the Silver Flame’s aesthetic sensibilities? Are snakes and rainbow feathers common imagery, or does Thrane focus more on fire and “generic light and holiness” for imagery?
Considering the current description of their art and architecture, and the fact a serpent focused sect is called out for heresy, I’d imagine they’re more “Flame” focused
Correct. We’ve mentioned the rainbow fletching, and we have the iconic depictions of Tira and the couatl, but they are a Flame sect, not a serpent cult. Couatl are respected and depicted in imagery as emissaries of the Flame, but the focus of the faith—and its trappings—is the FLAME.
If we take the myth that the couatls were created from the blood of Siberys before it touched Eberron at face value, is there any link between Siberys dragonshards and couatl? It could partially explain how the dragons were able to suffuse the Heart of Siberys with the power of the Silver Flame despite that not being what that type of dragonshard is typically used for.
If it’s something you want to explore in your campaign, go for it!
There is one thing that I never fully understand: what makes flamekeep special? Are couatls in some way “physically” there?
The Silver Flame, as far as I see, I a transcendent force; everybody everywhere can find inspiration in it; why is the keeper of the flame 19th level only in flamekeep?
Is it common knowledge that the keeper in that powerful just in the capital? Does she knows that if she leaves the city loses most of her powers?
Also: can the keeper create magic items as a 19th cleric? Assuming that, was this access to unusually high level magic items an issue during the war?
On the spot of Tira’s sacrifice there is a pillar of silver flame. This is a font of the Flame and serves as a spiritual anchor for the Voice of the Flame. It has no grand significance to the Flame overall and no, couatls don’t physically hang out in Flamekeep, but it is a concentrated point at which the Flame projects into the world and more critically, a place in which one is closest to the Voice. While Jaela is called “The Keeper of the Flame,” she’s actually “The Keeper of the Font of the Flame in Flamekeep” — and thus, her power wanes if she leaves it.
Also: can the keeper create magic items as a 19th cleric?
Yes and no. Remember that divine magic isn’t as scientific as arcane magic. The Keeper isn’t an artificer or a wizard, and their duty is to guide their people, not to go labor in some workshop for weeks. With that said, yes, absolutely, the Keeper of the Flame could create high level magic items—but it would be something they would do based on divine inspiration as opposed to following scientific principles. Jaela wouldn’t sit up at night sketching plans for a new kind of flaming sword; but she might have a vision of a champion wielding a blade shrouded in flame, order a smith to make a blade matching the one seen in her dream, and then plunge it into the font of the flame—pulling it forth as a Holy Avenger. But she couldn’t just make another one the next day, and another the week after that. So yes, Thrane does have an arsenal of powerful items created by the Keepers, but they can’t make them to order like a Cannith factory.
What relationship might the remaining couatl have with the Prophecy? Are they, or any of them, as engaged with it as the rakshasa, actively working against threads that could releaae an Overlord? Is there an equivalent to the Lords of Dust or the Chamber?
That’s the role of the Flame itself. It’s clear that the number of remaining Couatl is miniscule so there isn’t enough of them to risk facing the Lords of the Dust. Plus the only reason those left did not merge with the Flame was that they were given important tasks. They would have to abandon those tasks to do anything else.
I’d imagine some of those particular tasks might be intricately related to the Prophecy?
I don’t think a Couatl would have stayed around to pursue an active task, i.e. a task that would evolve over time. It could be that a particular Couatl might be guarding a site important to the prophecy but anything that would involve guidance would probably be better done by inspiring people through the Flame; The Couatl DID leave servants in the form of the Shulassakar so I’d assume more active tasks would have been left to them?
Of course it’s your campaign and you can have an entire faction lead by Couatl that tries to manipulate events from behind the scenes.
Nym is exactly correct. The couatl aren’t actively working against the release of the overlords; instead, they sacrificed themselves to BECOME THE CAGE that binds the overlords, trusting that the dragons and other mortals would do the necessary work going forward. They certainly have an equivalent to the Lords of Dust: it’s the Church of the Silver Flame, the Masivirk’uala, the Ghaash’kala, and all the other serpent cults—all organizations that exist because of the couatl and that work to counter forces of evil. But there are only a handful of ancient guardians in the world, and most are stationed in isolated locations shielded against divination (as otherwise the Lords of Dust would hunt them down) and thus can’t communicate with others. There are exceptions—the order known as Miron’s Tears has a couatl advisor—but they are extremely rare.
As regards the Prophecy, the couatl are intricately connected in that only specific branches of the Prophecy can free the overlords, and the couatls created those bonds. So again, their work isn’t actively combating the Lords of Dust, it was creating the chains that the Lords of Dust now work to unlock.
Hmm. Makes me want to write that sourcebook on Thrane. If I get the chance, that is. I view the Church of the Silver Flame is a complex thing with divisions afflicting it.
As for the quetzalcoutls, if they created the flame to bind a fiend within it, I would expect the largest Syberys shard would be the catalyst for it.
Do the Serpentine Cults have a different opinion on resurrection magic and mystical extensions of life since they don’t think mortals contribute to the Silver Flame or don’t regard it as important? Are there any other major dedicated differences between the Serpentine and the Flame sects?
If fiends and such are stored in the Silver Flame, and that flame ever goes out…