The Carrion Crown
Pharasma (fah-RAZ-mah) is the stern observer of life and death, scrutinizing the tangled webs of fate and prophecy, mercilessly cold in the administration of her grim duties. Having seen infants die, the righteous fall too soon, and tyrants live to advanced age, she makes no judgment about the justness of a particular death and welcomes each birth with equal severity. At the moment of birth, she knows where a particular soul will end up, but she reserves her official verdict until the last possible moment, as she knows prophecies can be wrong or fail completely. She believes in fate and predestination but understands the need for vagueness and misinterpretation to allow for the illusion of free will.
Legends claim that Pharasma knew the death of Aroden was fast approaching and even judged him as she did all those born as mortals, but did nothing to warn her followers, many of whom were driven mad by the event. Though prophecy is no longer reliable, prophets continue to be born, and most of these are driven mad by their confusing and contradictory visions—and the church has taken it upon itself to care for these poor souls, devoting portions of major temples to be sanitariums. In art, Pharasma is depicted as the midwife, the mad prophet, or the reaper of the dead, depending upon her role. Her visage usually has gray skin and white eyes.
As the midwife, she is efficient and severe, hair pulled back and arms bare from hands to the elbows. As the prophet, she is wild-eyed and tanglehaired, her words echoing like thunder. As the reaper, she is tall and gaunt, with a flowing, black-hooded gown and an hourglass with fast-f lowing red sand—moving with deliberate care rather than aggressiveness. Pregnant women often carry small tokens of her midwife likeness on long necklaces to protect the unborn and grant them good lives.