Arakai

From Bestiary of the Hypogriph

Template:Creature

Our people know the dangers of stagnancy, yet embrace it like a lover. We are ever so enamored to the cycle, to this tyranny of the past, all the while it strangles us and holds us back... back from what we were always meant to be. From what we were already acknowledged to be: Masters.

The Arakai are a race of humanoid insects native to the eponymous Arakai Mountains located on the northern coast of the continent of Zhnamancand. Having acted as the masters of their homeland for the last three thousand years, the Arakai live among clans competing for dominance and are by no definition unaccustomed to warfare. Skilled warriors and powerful mages with a xenophobic side to them, the race of beastmen has earned a terrifying reputation among those who have heard of their isolationist kind. In fact, they rarely venture outside their homeland on their own accord and do so only as exiles or refugees.

Biology[edit | edit source]

Standing between 1.80 and 2.10 metres tall, the Arakai are a race of beastmen comparable to most modern elves in size. Their eyes are located deep inside their heads, away from immediate danger, and are usually vivid red in colouration. However, children may be born with a condition called "sapphire eyes", where the typical red is replaced by a deep blue hue; an occurrence that is believed to coincide with the child having greater proficiency with magic. Other internal organs are likewise protected by the tough exoskeleton of the Arakai, acting as their body armor and removing the need, if not the want, to carry a heavy set of armor that would slow them down in their preferred terrain. While the threat of their exoskeleton breaking is an exceptionally dire consequence for them, Arakai flesh retains its form (to an extent) even if the chitin shell is removed completely. Having lived in the far north of the world, they have a natural resistance to cold, with additional protection from the elements being provided by a thin layer of hair (setae) on the inside of their exoskeleton. Similar hair is noted to grow on their heads, although males shave their heads as per tradition so as to further differentiate themselves from females, who would otherwise only demonstrate relatively negligible sexual dimorphism.

History[edit | edit source]

The Great Dissent[edit | edit source]

The accepted histories of the Arakai begin in their ancestral homeland of Hunter's Bay some thousand years after the disappearance of the ancient Qoranit inventors who had previously ruled over much of the continent. At the outset of their history, a group of hunter-gatherers came across the force of nature Harstag, who had travelled to their faraway land for unknown reasons - apparently so also to the demigod himself. Being caught off guard by encountering a being of such nature, the primitive Arakai found themselves cowering before Harstag's presence until the demigod introduced himself and convinced them to be at ease. These hunter-gatherers inquired much from the deity, and, upon returning to their people, shared what they had learned with their community. Soon after word of this peculiar encounter spread to the other Arakai communities in Hunter's Bay, what had initially been idle gossip and tales, evolved into actual worship of this seemingly divine being.

All of this continued without many disturbances until, a thousand years later, an Arakai found himself lost in an ice cave without any idea how to find his way out. According to legend, the man begged his ancestors and whatever gods might have been listening to show him the way out, and, eventually, a voice emanating from his own reflection answered his pleas. This reflection happened to be Gajaildim, a god from a bygone age who had found no place in the world and had become confined to the cave as a result - that is, until the man had tried to understand why all of this had happened to him, with the deity there to hear and give clarity to him. Touched deeply by his experience in the ice cave, the man went on to retell his story to other members of his community, who quickly began to worship Gajaildim instead of Harstag, for it had been them who had rescued their fellow man from what would have been a certain death otherwise. This new deity found much traction - largely for their more philosophical side of examining one's faults and finding a way in life despite them - among others who visited this community, as Arakai society had transformed greatly since the days of the hunter-gatherers who had encountered Harstag.

With their numbers swelling at an exponential pace, the emergence of these new worshippers of Gajaildim caused tensions to flare up between them and the more well-established worshippers of Harstag. Understanding that trouble was assured to arise if these tensions weren't addressed promptly, all communal leaders were called to the settlement of Kerene to discuss this new development. Both sides were heard equally, and, after much deliberation, in the single most important moment of Arakai history, those who had flocked to the Gajaildim worshipping community of the Hejarus settlement were forced to leave Hunter's Bay in order to prevent the looming war from bringing harm to their beloved homeland.

Rise of the Clans[edit | edit source]

This departure and divide from the rest of their kin brought many radical changes to Arakai society by causing the formation of the very first Arakai clans - Kerene and Hejarus, named so after the initial settlements that had encountered each deity. As the Arakai who followed Clan Hejarus travelled in search of a new home, further splintering occurred within the newly founded clan, resulting in the Arakai spreading in multiple directions, and with each main group considering themselves an independent clan. It was these clans that went on to rediscover the lost cities of the Qoranit, converting the ruins left behind by the ancient builders into their new homes. However, as the Arakai clans continued to expand their territories, they eventually provoked the Bálstedunn by settling too close to lands that the giants considered sacred. As a direct result, the more organized Bálstedunn tribes began to actively hunt down any Arakai presence they could find; a bloody campaign that led to the deaths of thousands of people, and the destruction of countless clans and their unique cultures. This war that the giants waged on the Arakai culminated in the Siege of Unkhatcar, that saw the Arakai, led by Clan Hejarus - who had claimed the ancient city as their capital - deliver a decisive blow against the Bálstedunn, who were left virtually leaderless in the aftermath of the battle.

Peace between the two races was made shortly thereafter, with the Bálstedunn even acknowledging the Arakai as inheritors to the responsibility given by them to the Qoranit in ages past as sworn protectors of the Mountains - in doing so also marking the Arakai as the indisputable rulers of the region. The coming centuries saw the Arakai steadily recover from the devastation inflicted upon their populace; many new clans, such as Wulnir and Silaris, rose to prominence among their peers, giving way for clear leadership to take root within the clan hierarchy. As the Arakai transitioned towards a more centralized governance, a change of priorities could be seen in their worldview. The question of religion had become superseded by those of culture and heritage, with many clans developing myths surrounding their founders and how they rose to power, painting the lives of these figures in legendary light.

Vortigern's War[edit | edit source]

This mythical quality became an almost universal goal for many ambitious Arakai, and was widely exploited by various warlords; over time steering the Arakai as a people towards becoming a full-fledged warrior culture. With competition and warfare between the clans becoming commonplace, these developments within Arakai society came to a head some two thousands years prior to the modern day, when the warlord of Clan Silaris, Vortigern the Mad, began a long campaign to once more unite the Arakai clans under one banner. While the eastern clans, excluding Clan Kerene, followed him quite readily - helped by the fact that he had given aid to Clan Lamind against raiders that allegedly belonged to Harstag worshipping clans, who were, in turn, brutally exterminated by Clan Silaris - their western counterparts, led by Clans Wulnir and Hejarus, resisted the mage-king's aspirations.

The war that followed was fought on a previously unprecedented scale for the Arakai, with their old approach to warfare showing itself to be inadequate for it; wars between the clans in the past had been usually decided by one or two pitched battles, where everything was expected to move through very specific routines. In contrast, Vortigern's war was a far bloodier and drawn out conflict - partly by the man's own design, as he desired to remove the "cyclical stagnancy" that he saw affecting the Arakai and to ultimately bring them into a domineering position beyond the Arakai Mountains. While the war eventually ended in his favor, and so achieving his dream of a united Arakai, Vortigern's supremacist beliefs and a fixation with reclaiming the ancient glory of the Qoranit for the Arakai caused his reign to last for only six months, as the warlords of Clans Lamind, Wulnir, and Hejarus revolted against their Silaris overlord. This alliance went on to drive the clan to extinction, killing hundreds of its members - many of whom didn't have anything to do with the regime, causing some among later generations to question the validity of such an approach - and Vortigern himself in the Battle of Nthcnzel.

Modern Era[edit | edit source]

Despite his death, Vortigern's ideals - both those of unity and of Arakai superiority - had still found themselves ingrained in the Arakai mindset. Among his past enemies, Lamind and Kerene warlords, in particular, were famous for instituting practices used against outsiders that were remarkably similar to Vortigern's own. His dream of seeing the Arakai united again also inspired many to try and spur others to embrace it as well, and while it remained nothing but a hopeful dream for nearly two thousand years, it wasn't until 2678 3E that people began to give some thought to the idea once more. War on a similar scale to Vortigern's erupted between Clans Lamind and Wulnir following an altercation caused by an assassin during a clan summit in the Lamind capital, with both accusing the other side of the attack that led to the deaths of all but three warlords present. The actual culprit behind the attack, warlord Ire Lamind, built himself a powerful following by promising the Arakai clans unity and the elimination of the need for competition once the war was over, while his enemies, warlords Tyrin Wulnir and Uruth Hejarus, relied much on their past ties and were vocal proponents for clan freedom - and thus quite easily blamed by Ire for the act that he had been responsible for.

Society[edit | edit source]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Duty before compassion. Compassion before honor. Honor before glory.
— Recital of the basics of the warrior code taught to Arakai warriors

A firmly ingrained warrior culture permeates nearly every facet of the Arakai way of life. Service of any kind to one's clan and warlord is expected of all Arakai, with great importance being placed on their physical aptitude; professional blacksmiths, builders, hunters, and, unsurprisingly, warriors are valued by their clans and can often rise to high-standing positions within their warlord's inner circle. Mages, healers, and other such more scholarly focused Arakai are still held in high regard, provided that they don't actively weaken the clan with their personal exploits, as a clan is only respected by its peers as long as it remains strong. Due to this state of constant competition between the clans, a certain dependency on warriors exists and most warlords are driven to remain on the top by training their warriors to be the very best they possibly can be. Unsurprisingly, the life of a warrior is an object of want for thousands upon thousands of young Arakai men and women, although only the most capable of these warriors-to-be succeed in their aspirations, while the others are pruned by the rigorous training that they are subjected to.

Alongside their clan hierarchy, traditions, while differing from clan to clan, and even region to region, are another important part of Arakai culture that allows their society to function as it does. Being quite ritualistic, a multitude of different rites exist among the Arakai. These generally go beyond purely religious proceedings, with things such as the granting of titles, pledges of service, and couples entering marriage being all handled through ritual ceremonies. While men and women are generally held in the same regard among the Arakai, clarity of gender for the sake of procession of these rites is required and "intentional" androgyny is punishable, with it sadly, too often, being enforced unjustly. The histories of each clan are documented by scholars - and especially by court mages - employed by their respective clans and are often recounted to children in order for them to take pride in their clan's heritage from a young age. Even beyond this, storytelling and bardic legend are, in fact, widely practiced and their more well-versed practitioners generally appreciated.

Additionally, while opinions on the matter might differ greatly, magic is a mainstay among the Arakai. In general, all Arakai have inherent potential when it comes to manipulating these energies and are known to make exemplary mages of all kinds, provided that they have ample patience and interest for the matter; many Arakai simply choose to disregard magic altogether due to the lifetime of work it demands of them. The manners of control exerted over this inherent power manifest in various forms among their mages, although each shares a common source in enchanted tattoos carved into the outer chitin shell of the mage. The placement of these tattoos on the mage's body determines the way in which they wield magic; a set of tattoos carved around an Arakai's chest and neck would allow them to use their voice to cast magic, while those carved into one's arm would allow them to use their corresponding arms to do so.

Religion[edit | edit source]

Script error: No such module "main". Something of a sore subject for a number of Arakai, questions of religion have a long history with the race. They follow a pantheon consisting of barely a handful of deities with no real association to one another. However, their religious traditions mostly revolve around ancestor worship, with their deities acting as something of a background presence. In fact, they, despite their obvious deific nature, are more often likened by the beastmen to guiding principles and ways to approach the world; doctrines, rather than actual gods. Nowadays most Arakai follow the teachings of the enigmatic Gajaildim, while the last surviving people who adhere to Harstag make up Clan Kerene. With a bloody history littered with injustices committed by both sides between the two religious groups, tensions between individuals (rather than clans like they used to) are known to arise from time to time even in modern times. Also, while recognized as a part of the pantheon, Dominus Mortis, known as Dysjofurr by the Arakai, is generally not considered to be a 'god', and instead acts as a guide and protector for the dead.

Language[edit | edit source]

The language spoken by the Arakai is the Arak-Tongue; notable in that it is unable to ever be spoken fluently by non-Arakai. This is due to the insectile nature of its native speakers, causing the proper pronunciation of most, if not all, words to be impossible to manage. A typical way for members of other races to try and generate similar sounds is by holding their teeth together and speaking without moving one's jaw. As a written language, however, Arak-Tongue is far more accessible and is easily transferable to different alphabets. Common tongue is also spoken among the Arakai, although it is mostly limited to mages and the families of warlords.

Relations with other races[edit | edit source]

The Arakai are generally characterized by a seclusionary view of other races, referring to them universally as outsiders no matter the distinctions they would assure to exist. The extent to which the Arakai take this dislike of races originating from outside their homeland can differ greatly from clan to clan; the eastern clans have historically been noticeably brutal in their handling of outsiders, while the western clans are more mellow in their approach. It is with these western clans that most foreign trade occurs with, and in particular with Clan Wulnir, who control access to the region from the west. A frequent trade partner due to their close borders, the catfolk of Ezaren are, without a doubt, the race that has come into contact with the Arakai the most, and, as fellow travellers of the ancient Qoranit highways, aren't required to cross the hazardous frozen wastelands between their territories in order to communicate.

With the other non-hostile inhabitants of the Arakai Mountains, the Bálstedunn giants, however, the Arakai can be seen acting far more cordially. Mutual respect, even if being begrudging at times, exists between the two races due to their shared history of war and misunderstandings.

Notable Arakai[edit | edit source]

  • Modern figures
  • Historical figures
    • Ire the Kingslayer - Warlord of Clan Lamind during Vortigern's reign, later his killer
    • Mannus II the Outsider - Ancient warlord of Clan Lamind, the only warlord ever to be exiled
    • Vortigern the Mad - The last warlord of Clan Silaris, united the clans two thousand years ago

See also[edit | edit source]