Govriela and the Sestran Sisters
Many years prior to the war, healthcare in Ravnica was as varied and decentralized as the myriad races and peoples of the city. The old, “green” magicks were as integral a part of the (non)system as the ascendant “red” and “white” practices favored by the fashionable, busy elites. A nurse-mage named Govriela rose to prominence as the First-Among-Equals of the Sestran Order – a nurses’ union – then as the administrator of a Sestran hospital in the Tas district of Ravnica. She was a reasonably talented healer, but proved an extremely savvy and cutthroat businesswoman. Her hospital quickly became a citadel of healing and a model for healthcare in the great city. Gradually, other clinics and healthcare centers fell under her purview, and her nurses’ union-cum-corporation, now called the Sestran Ecumene. (SES-truhn eh-CUE-meh-nay)
As her grip on Ravnica’s healthcare system tightened, the old ways were driven into the shadows. This paradigm shift was concomitant with the marginalization of non-humanoid races—indeed, although Govriela herself was notably silent on the subject of race relations in Ravnica, many credit her advances in healing and adoption of the B/W pharmaceuticals as a major factor in the disappearance of non-humanoid naturopathic medicine and non-humanoid culture as a whole.
Ilsa and Arina
Shortly before the war, Govriela took a lover and became pregnant with twin daughters (Sidebar: this is a figure of speech, as one of the Sestran Ecumene’s greatest early contributions to women’s liberation was the development of birth control. It was widely understood that Sestrans were tremendously liberal in their sexual liaisons, Govriela being no exception. My juxtaposition of “took a lover” and “became pregnant” by no means implies direct causation, aside from the obvious…causal flow). She named the first to emerge Ilsa, and the second, clutching the first’s heel, Arina. Both were raised with the help of members of the Order, under Govriela’s watchful, surprisingly maternal gaze. They learned the ways of healing, and blossomed into young women. Everyone agreed that both were very attractive, but each in such a different way than her sister that any two Ravnicans would very quickly be able to tell you with certainty WHICH sister was the more attractive, but each answer would be different.
Two Paths Diverged in a Yellow Wood
Govriela was aging, and began very gradually to pass her legacy on to her daughters. She began the process by charging each daughter with a particular facet of her empire. To Arina, the younger and more exacting, she gave control of the department of midwifery. Midwives were an extremely important part of Ravnican life, as childbirth was notoriously difficult among the increasingly cerebral and peevish humanoid culture. To Ilsa, Govriela gave a far more difficult, nebulous, and controversial task: to research and explore the lost arts of naturopathic healing, in an attempt to stem a rising tide of terrifying, consumptive diseases that had begun to proliferate among secretive high society, and which had frustrated all attempts with R/W magic thus far. Ilsa, bearing her mothers’ aegis as firstborn, set out among the “lesser races” to her sister’s, and many other members of the Ecumene’s, disgust.
About this time, the war started up. I don’t know much about the war.
As war continued to rage, the Sestran Ecumene filled roles left by warring guilds, specifically in the areas of port maintenance (essentially serving as the ground-crew for the Wings of Malaakh), manufacturing, and food production and preparation. No longer simply a nurses’ order, the now-massive guild changed its name once more to the Mokosh Circle. Govriela’s original hospital campus now covered most of the ground on Tas, the Roof of the World, expanding to include the Windport, frequently used by the Wings of Malaakh. As the Mokosh Circle grew, so did their influence. Women all over Ravnica began to enjoy an unprecedented degree of political clout, thanks to the labors of the Circle. As a result, the edges of the guild were difficult to define…certainly, there were members and non-members, but even women of other guilds knew which side their toast was buttered on, so to speak, and owed a certain debt to the Mokosh movers and shakers. Members of the Circle referred to each other, and indeed all women they met, as Sister.
The Downfall of a Sister
Meanwhile, Arina, remaining in Tas to manage the Midwives Union, began to enjoy her authority and status, and attempted to expand her influence in her mother’s guild. Govriela, wizened and tired, gently rebuked her daughter, reminding her of her older sister’s birthright. Govriela, ever the strategist, deflected the inevitable rebellion by engineering a meeting between Arina and one of the high-ranking members of Luke’s guild. Blind to her mother’s manipulations, Arina fell quite in love and spent less and less time in Tas. That potential problem quelled, Govriela returned to her chief concern…her own failing health. The dreadful consumptive disease had taken hold of her, and she was beginning to die. She summoned her first daughter Ilsa, in order that she might set her affairs in order, and deliver the guild entire to her heir. Ilsa raced back to Tas on one of Malaakh’s ships accompanied by a cadre of Tauren windspeakers, but arrived only to find her mother clinging to the last gasps of life. Overcome with grief and desperate to extend her mother’s life, Ilsa called out—with the help of the windspeakers—to the old elemental forces that had dominated pre-civilized Ravnica, and shockingly, turned her mother into a massive, beautiful tree. Recognizing that this was TOTALLY AT ODDS with guild ethos, Ilsa fled into obscurity, assuming the name Tofka and establishing a humble inn frequented by only by the lowliest denizens of Ravnica (Tof’s Wooden Nickel. Before leaving Tas, she sent word to her sister of all that she had done.
A New Head of Household
Arina received this news with mixed feelings. Beset with woe for her departed mother, consumed by white-hot rage at the barbarism of her sister, somewhat relieved by her sister’s capitulation of her claim as guildmother, and horrified at the prospect of a resurgence of the old magicks, Arina spent ten days and nights sequestered in her mother’s quarters at Tas. On the morning of the tenth day, Arina sent word to the great guild leaders who had already secretly begun peace talks—a fact she had discovered through Luke’s spies—and counseled them to include the mongrel races in the negotiations, ostensibly to honor her mother’s addled dying wishes, but in actuality to curtail the possibility of future rebellion. To her surprise, but satisfaction, the guild leaders complied with her suggestion, and even invited her to represent the Mokosh Circle at the table, finally ratifying the power Govriela had so carefully labored to gather.
Where It Stands Now
And that’s where the guild stands immediately after the war. Arina is the leader of a powerful guild of women, who became powerful by filling the roles vacated by those fighting in the war. Now that the war is over, those fighters may wish to return to their previous posts. Nevertheless, women of the Mokosh Circle, and women in general, enjoy a massive increase in political power in Ravnica post-war. A certain portion of the guild is still loyal to Ilsa/Tofka, and at least one major contingent has attempted to seek her out in her hiding place, to return her to her rightful place as leader of the guild. Arina attempts to lead as a technocrat like her mother, but falls prey to her mercurial emotions, frequently attempting to maintain her authority through relationships and alliances rather than sound policy. Being a guild of women, ENTIRELY of women, guild members must look to other guilds for husbands, and truth be told, there is no shortage of volunteers. Marrying into the upper levels of the Mokosh Circle provides men with access to the Circle’s power, connections, and considerable wealth, to say nothing of their beauty and related feminine assets.
Mokosh Circle at a Glance
Sisters in the Circle see the body as a teeming mass of living stuff that must be controlled or forced into submission to maintain optimum health. Ideas of entropy, aging, bleeding, generating pain—these are aberrations and should be controlled. Perhaps the most perfect example of Mokosh ethos-cum-praxis is their development of birth control. The “natural course” of things would result in a pregnancy, but Mokosh sisters are able (and therefore deserving) to dictate that outcome. This explains why
Ilsa’s Tofka’s use of Tauren magic to transform her mother into a tree—essentially accelerating a corpse’s well-documented tendency to rot and feed plants—is so anathema to the guild at large.
Tofka the Fallen, while investigating cures for a strange new wasting disease, rediscovered old remedies among non-humanoid races that bore some promise, but this information is not widely known outside the guild, and was assumed lost when Tofka fled justice. There may be a splinter group who is seeking her and her cures despite the edicts of the guildmother Arina.
Certain minor guilds, such as those concerned with textiles and fine metalworking, were absorbed by the Mokosh Circle during the war (the few male members expunged in the process). They’re managed and protected by the Circle, but being basically unconcerned with medical practice and the ethics thereof, they remain allied to the Circle mostly for political expediency. I.E., the Mokosh Circle advocates for the place of women in the postwar workforce, and these skilled laborers don’t want to relinquish their jobs. Some of these circles-within-the-Circle have uncomfortably close ties to the Water and Power guild, for purchasing raw materials on the cheap.
Concubines: Yep, there’s a branch of the guild that deals with that. Like I said before, “natural properties” of the body can be strictly controlled, and that means great bodies, spectacular orgasms, and foolproof birth control. You could go to a non-guild brothel, but you’re making a serious risk. The largest nest of concubines is aboard Roo’akh, the Windwife.