The Peoples

Humans

Humans are a common enough species, and concentrated populations of them may be found on every continent.

Humans are short-lived by most other species' standards, living between 70-80 years on average. Conversely, they have comparatively high reproductive rates. They are physically average, standing on average between 5'4 and 6'0, varying widely based on environment and diet. In fact, one of the markers of humanity is an adaptiveness and mutability that makes them capable of living in almost any environment. Humans possess two physical sexes, and many- but not all- human societies attempt to tie gender identity to those sexes.

Historically, humanity has played an influential, if not decisive role in world history. Or rather, humans have- human societies in general have been relatively weak, at best regional powers, although mighty human empires and nations have existed. Human states tend to be less durable than those of other species, giving their societies and nations a sense of transience and even fragility, but also of dynamism. That said, humans have always played some part in world events, even if it is not a central one. Humans participated on the side of the Elves in the Fae War, six thousand years ago. For this, they are counted as one of the six Blessed Peoples, along with the Elves, Dwarves, Dragons, Phoenixes and Rinakh.

The paradigm of humanity being an average player in world affairs has changed abruptly in the past 200 years. Human societies gave birth to the industrial and scientific revolutions, with which they developed technology that could 'even the odds', as it were. Most importantly was the role of improved agriculture and medicine. Although humans reproduce faster than Elves and Dwarves, the child mortality rate in humanity has always been drastically high- for much of history, a human child had between a 20 to 50% chance to die before their fifth year. With the advent of improved medicine and food yields, however, the child mortality rate plunged, leading to a massive population boom that has seen humans grow in such numbers as to outnumber almost any other species- at this point, it is estimated that humans make up between 35 and 45 percent of the global population.

With a massive increase in population and food came an increase in material wealth. The industrial and scientific revolutions gave humans access to advanced techniques in the fields of mining and architecture. Superior weaponry, including firearms and steel ships gave human states a drastic increase in hard power. The result was that by the 39th century, human states that had spent centuries as middle powers were now blessed with a global reach in influence and might. A human might not be as durable as a dwarf, but a human-made rifle will pulp a dwarf's brain as easily as anyone else's; a Mind Flayer might be able to dominate a room with a single wave of its psychic tendrils, but there's not much they can do to stop an artillery shell fired from an off-coast battleship.

This newfound power has come with responsibilities, but many human states have been seen as slow to adapt to that reality. Many abuse their power to extract wealth, or use it to settle old scores. On the other hand, the human states formed the bulk of the forces arrayed against the Darkling Empire during the Great Darkling War, and indeed were the first to respond to the threat the Darklings posed to the world.

Human cultures vary widely across continents. In some places, human cultures live in isolation from others, surrounded by non-human countries and people; in others, human cultures constantly rub up against one another. It is often a matter of geography. This diversity makes it difficult to summarise human societies. This diversity is mirrored in their religion as well.

That said, one of the world's most influential faiths- Balarism- originates from humanity. The Balarines worship a single, unified God, who is the protector and creator of all peoples. God charges Their followers to do the same, protecting and creating in myriad ways. The religion is one that preaches peace and harmony, but emphasises that sometimes conflict must be engaged in order to protect the helpless and just. This conflict need not be violent in nature, but if so, then it must be fought righteously and faithfully. God's agents on earth include angels and, of course, those clerics who draw on their faith in God to perform divine spells. However, the greatest servant of God are the Avatar Saints: living incarnations of an aspect of God's mysterious power. An Avatar Saint appears only once every few hundred years, and so far there have only been six, with the Prophet Balar being the first, appearing four thousand years ago. Each Avatar Saint ranks as one of the most powerful beings the world has ever seen, able to summon angel hosts at will and reshape whole landscapes.

When an Avatar Saint dies, their body disintegrates, revealing only beads of essence floating in the air, before they coalesce and fade from the eye. These essences nonetheless remain on earth, containing the memories and will of the Avatar Saint; they sometimes appear in certain places, which become holy places, and speak to the faithful in dreams and visions. Balarine clerics draw their divine powers from these essences- these bridges between the material world and the divine. Before the Avatar Saint's essence vanishes, however, it can be vulnerable- the second Avatar Saint died on a battlefield, and his servant, the archangel Riman, seized the essence, believing that the world had proven unworthy of its presence. To Riman's surprise, they were cursed and chastised for this by God. Riman in his anger made alliances with dark, demonic powers, leading to a catastrophic war that ended only with the appearance of the third Avatar Saint.

There are many stereotypes about humans, including from humans about other humans. In general, though, there are both negative and positive stereotypes about humans amongst other species. Humans are seen as short-lived and sensitive about it, seeking to compensate with immortality-seeking acts (of the glory kind, not the literal immortality kind, although that too happens), with an image of them being risky and reckless. They are sometimes seen as hyperactive and unreliable, moving between callings and occupations in a way that seems irresponsible to the long-lived. They are also often seen as power-hungry and dangerous, even treacherous, especially with their relatively newfound military strength. On the other hand, humans are also seen as being dynamic, motivated, daring, creative, inventive and capable of adapting to almost any hardship or environment. They don't burn long, but they burn bright, as the saying goes.

Elves

Elves are a widespread species, and instantly recognisable- they are one of the most ancient peoples one earth.

Assuming a life spared by disease or violence, an elven lifespan can last up to five hundred years, with trained elven mages living even longer. Their reproductive rates tend to be below average- although the gestation period is only ten months, actually achieving pregnancy can take years. They typically stand between 5'2 and 5'10, and tend to be somewhat slimmer than humans. They possess a natural grace and sense of balance, giving them considerably well-developed reflexes and agility. One of their more famous features are their pointed ears, which start off barely noticeable but grow more prominent through late puberty. Elves exhibit many different skin and hair colours, including some not found in humans, such as blue or green or purple. They prefer rather wet climates, and often thrive in temperate or tropical regions, but do poorly in deserts and other very dry areas. They on average eat more than humans, usually the equivalent of an extra full dinner every two days. Elves mature physically and sexually at almost the same rate as humans, but their mental development is not considered 'complete' until the age of fifty or so. This isn't noticeable when dealing with, for example, moral development or thinking about complex or abstract ideas- in this, Elves mature at a human rate. Their decision-making processes develop only slowly, however, and Elven 'adolescence' is marked with great curiosity and not quite enough fear. Elves possess two physical sexes, but are typically more genderfluid than human societies.

Elves possess a natural sensitivity to magic currents, manifesting sometimes as a sixth sense. Many elves are capable of using basic magical cantrips with a minimum of training, and elves who practice the magic arts as a profession are some of the most formidable mages on earth.

Elves have long held a position of great influence in world affairs. They were some of the first empire builders, with all the grandeur- and atrocities, and pride- that entails. Elves are one of the six Blessed Peoples, in fact the first of the Blessed Peoples. The Blessed Peoples is a concept that holds great influence in elven culture, history and religion: the six Peoples are those who participated in the war against the Fae. Elves possess an ancient and well-documented history, with the long fingers of the elves tipping many scales various ways. The most prominent of these events was the Fae War.

As the elves tell it, six thousand years ago, most intelligent species lived in small villages or nomadic groups. There were no states, and little growth in technology or knowledge. This is because most of the world was controlled by the Fae- immensely powerful demigod spirits who merged with the land and twisted large sections of it as a reflection of themselves. The Fae often had no care or concern for mortal lives, and happily snuffed them out if they wished (which was often). Societies were hemmed into the small spaces between Fae demesnes.

One day, an elven woman named Arcalimé ran afoul of a Fae, who had tormented her village for as long as anyone could recall. Through some miracle, Arcalimé survived and fled, although the warped space meant she knew not where she was going, and emerged into a wild land she did not recognise. As the weather turned dark, the made her way to the only shelter she could- a small holly tree. She huddled beneath it, and attempted to meditate, hoping to focus her magics on finding a way home. The holly tree did a little to shield her from the elements, but not much.

Before long, two other elves arrived, a man and a woman. Arcalimé was surprised and suspicious by their appearance, but attempted to meditate nonetheless. The two asked her a series of strange questions that she thought were intended to distract her. She answered them unthinkingly, only to find her answers actually surprised her with their content. As the questioning went on, she felt her meditative spirit improve, and eventually she began to hear the quiet whispers of the holly tree. On mentioning this to the couple, they smiled and revealed their true forms- the man was a phoenix, and the woman a dragon. Arcalimé could barely contain her awe and fear, but the two bade her to remain calm and meditative.

The dragon sheltered Arcalimé from the weather with its wings, and the phoenix found food for her when she was hungry. She continued to meditate until the clouds cleared and the sun came out. The holly tree had grown incredibly tall, taller than even the dragon, and now her mind was filled with revelations and insights on many things. With the phoenix and dragon at her side, she returned to her village, only to find that decades had passed and they thought her dead- or worse, a corpse or illusion raised by the Fae. She tried to impart her wisdom to the village, but many rejected her out of fear, with only a few listening. These she took with her into the wilds- she found the Fae that had tormented her and, with the help of her companions and her newfound knowledge and power, destroyed it. Freed of the Fae's warped demesne, the land quickly reformed into a lush, fertile valley overlooking the grand holly tree. It was here that Arcalimé founded a new settlement, which in time would be known as Arcalion. This event is the origin of elvish history, but also its largest religion.

What followed that was a thousand years of war. First, Arcalimé defeated the Fae surrounding her settlement and unified the elves living in the region. With the phoenixes, elves and dragons working together, they slew many Fae and drove them from an entire continent, the island-continent of Ringdor. At that time, Ringdor was connected to the great world-continent by a land bridge, and so she crossed it with her armies. There they found humans and dwarves, similarly unhappy with the Fae. Arcalimé's campaign turned into a world-wide crusade, adding the dwarves and humans to her ranks as they swept across the world in a bitter, slow war against the Fae demigods. In the heartlands of the world-continent they found the Rinakhi Empire, who were all too happy to accept the help of Arcalimé's forces in the war against the Fae. Eventually, the Fae were nearly wiped out- all but a hundred of them, who fled to the cold, distant southern continent and islands. Arcalimé did not pursue her war to these places, as religious reasons bade her avoid exterminating the Fae entirely. Instead, she disbanded her armies and bade her followers return to their homes. Arcalimé returned to Ringdor and ruled as its first Phoenix Queen for two hundred years before dying of old age.

Through this, however, elves were seeded across the world, and formed their own states and cultures. Thus, elven societies can differ widely from each other, from peaceful, religious states to aggressive militaristic ones, much like human states. Elven cultures tend to stress the virtue of patience, preferring to wait out a situation before acting at the right moment, but this facet of the culture has always been a source of arguments and disputes, as many elves see it as indecisiveness in a world not willing to wait for the elves to act. They also often- if not always- tend to learn toward individualism.

There are multiple elven faiths, but when people refer to the 'Elven religion', they usually mean Arcalism, the faith founded by Arcalimé. Arcalists does not worship a single God, but rather believe that the universe is overseen by a great harmonic 'gathering' of spiritual force, which is reflected in all living things, known as the Mystery. The Mystery is, obviously, mysterious, but fully understanding it is the key to enlightenment and divinity. However, the religion also stresses that no one viewpoint or person can grasp the Mystery; instead, the Mystery is only understood when viewed by as many viewpoints as possible. Every world religion possesses some form of truth about the Mystery, and thus is not invalidated or even opposed by the Arcalist creed. The religion will meet its culminating moment when all of the world's peoples and faiths come together.

On top of this, the faithful try to understand what they can about the Mystery through the 'Emissaries', the six gods that make up the elven pantheon. These gods correspond to the six Blessed Peoples- one is an elf, one is a half-human, another is a half-dwarf, and so on, covering the elves, humans, dwarves, dragons, phoenixes and rinakh. Each god has its own religious order, and provides divine power for its clerics.

As expected, many stereotypes exist about the elves, who have been around for a very long time. Many cultures count elves as friends and allies, whilst some have deep hatreds of them- obviously, the elves and the Fae are sworn enemies. Elves can be seen as aloof, cold and deceptive, patiently plotting the downfall of their foes in intricate, confusing plans and gambits- there are many sayings about the wrath of vengeful elves. Sometimes they are accused of thinking themselves the protagonists of world history and others as supporting characters at best, working towards a 'greater good' that suspiciously seems to involve a great deal of hardship for everyone else. They can be stereotyped as patronising, practicing a form of noblesse oblige to the other species, who are simply unable to handle themselves without their elven saviours. The stereotype of the arrogant elf is an old one.

On the other hand, elves are also stereotyped as clever, even heroic tricksters to a point. They are often seen as trustworthy just as often as they are deceitful, perhaps due to the influence they've had on philosophy and religion. The idea of the confident, individualist elf, pushing themselves- and others- on through nothing but their own motivation and spirit, is also a popular stereotype. They are often seen as tolerant and accepting of others' beliefs. Either way, negatively or positively, elves are seen as skilled and focused on their goals, even if that goal is to simply be one step ahead of everyone else.

High Elves

The term 'High Elf' is popularly used to refer to the elves native to the Kingdom of Ringdor, the ancestral homeland of the elves.

High Elves are mostly identical to the typical elf- they are, after all, the same species. However, there are some few physical differences and more cultural ones that set them apart.

In the time of the Fae War, Ringdor was connected to the world-continent via a great landbridge, which had been dominated by many powerful Fae. These Fae had been killed by Arcalimé and her army, and on the way home she intended to return by the same bridge. However, many elves liked the lands they had passed through, and so stayed behind to settle them instead of returning to Ringdor; thus as Arcalimé approached her homeland, much of her army dissolved to become settlers. Furthermore, whilst her army was crossing the landbridge, the final act of the Fae War occurred: Verdant Leshy, one of the greatest Fae ever to walk the earth, unleashed his full powers on the landbridge. As a result the land itself was shattered and broken, much of it sinking beneath the waves, with what remained forming a chain of islands. Many elves died, and Arcalimé herself only barely escaped. Furthermore, such was the chaos that the seas around Ringdor became chaotic and extremely dangerous to traverse, cutting Ringdor off from the rest of the world for four thousand years, after which the storms began to subside, dissipated by the third Avatar Saint.

However, Ringdor as a land was rich in resources, highly fertile and home to many elves, phoenixes and dragons. The storms isolated them, but also kept them safe from external threats; thus the elves of Ringdor spent many years perfecting their skills and arts, taming the land and developing their society in peace. They created long-lasting magical constructs to work much of the land and fought any dangerous animals or the odd demon with sophisticated enchanted weaponry. Simply put, the elves of Ringdor spent millennia in a safe, paradisiac environment. Thus the elves of Ringdor gradually evolved appropriately. They have the same grace as their world-continent cousins, but tend to be a little more frail. Nonetheless, when the storms dissipated, the elves of Ringdor found a world marred by centuries of war with demonkind. The Ringdorians did what they thought was best- they sent out dragons to find knowledge on ship-building, built a fleet and began providing aid and funds to as many people as they could, elf or no. They raised an army and gave it to the third Avatar Saint. They sent experts and teachers out to help rebuild societies and advise leaders. When the crisis had passed, the Ringdorians asked for little in return. The people of the world-continent named them the 'high elves' in respect for their nobility, and the name has stuck ever since, sometimes to the irritation of many continental elves.

Since then, the High Elves have played a surprisingly quiet role in many world affairs. They enjoy trade and peaceful coexistence with other nations, but generally keep to themselves, although they have always been welcoming and hospitable to guests and visitors. Occasionally they have intervened in major ways, but these occasions are rare, only a few per millennium.

The High Elves were slow to incorporate and develop the mass productive technology invented in the human states such as Agnesia, as the technology was long held in suspicion by the phoenixes. When the High Elves did eventually adopt it, they did so using magic mirrors to generate electricity, catching sunlight and stray magical currents in their surfaces. In this way they slowly became an industrial power.

So quiet were the High Elves that despite their wealth and size, many world leaders simply discounted them from their equations, as the High Elves had not really proven themselves on the world stage. This changed in a large way during the Great Darkling War. After many long years of open, desperate warfare between the Darkling Empire and an alliance of nations, the High Elves declared for the alliance after Verdant Leshy reappeared, flooding and utterly desecrating the Rinakhi Empire once and for all. Within a year, the Kingdom of Ringdor had unleashed an army of more than a million well-equipped soldiers, ferried across the world by a powerful battlefleet. The sudden addition of the High Elves tipped the balance of the war in favour for the alliance, and the Darklings were devastated.

Despite perhaps what they wanted, the age of High Elven isolationism was over. High Elven companies were now active in overseas markets, and the international order expected- demanded, even- that the High Elves participate. Refugees from wartorn regions were coming to Ringdor to settle, giving new diversities to the population- and forming ties on personal levels between Ringdor and the entire world. Many arguments still continue over whether this is healthy or not for Ringdor, with some arguing that the culture is being changed in a way the typically environmentally-dominant High Elves cannot manage, whilst others argue that the Kingdom has a moral obligation to prevent catastrophes, not simply clean up after them.

High Elven culture is seen as being somewhat peculiar in some ways. It has been described as a democracy wearing the clothes of a monarchy: although Ringdor is still ruled by the Phoenix Monarch, the position has gone from a hereditary one to one open to noble elections to finally being a position of office open to all, with regular elections every ten years, with every citizen voting. Even then, the Phoenix Monarch is mostly in charge of military and religious affairs, and has limited control over government processes. Ringdor has a parliament and a council, with parliamentarians being elected by the people, whilst each of the Princely States- the subdivisions forming the Kingdom- sending a single representative to the council, which can modify and in some cases veto a parliamentary bill. Despite the name, most of the Princely States in turn are democratic in choosing who exactly the 'Prince' is.

It maintains the individualist streak popular to elven societies, tempered by the dominance of the elven faith that stresses a life in balance with others' needs and viewpoints. High Elves seem to be avid travelers and tourists, especially younger ones, despite the long history of isolationism. The High Elves consider themselves a free, liberal people in ways that often bemuse or offend local sensibilities.

Ringdor maintains a surprisingly small standing military, preferring to raise a fresh force as the need arises. Most of their standing military is tied up in the navy (it's much harder to draft a navy than an army). The rest are elite forces, wielding enchanted weapons and armour. However, every Ringdorian citizen over the age of 20 is given a rifle (if not the ammunition) of their own by the government, and are expected to report to combat training for one month per year. This gives the Kingdom a large pool of potential soldiers, allowing it to raise a large army out of seemingly nothing in a short space of time.

Ringdor is a nation on the rise, and that perception is widespread both in and out of the Kingdom. There are many various stereotypes about the High Elves, especially now that they are more active in world affairs. They can often be typed as brash, rather obnoxious, naive or innocent to the world at large. They can be boastful, loud and supremely convinced about the prowess of Ringdor in just about any contest, especially wealth; a popular Agnesian stereotype is a wealthy High Elf spending lavishly without any taste whatsoever, offending the refined sensibilities of the tasteful Agnesian elite. In many societies they are stereotyped as primarily exporting an irritatingly well-funded, sexed-up fop who travels around idly for want of actual work to do. On the other hand, the High Elves are also often stereotyped as optimistic, very friendly, encouraging, warm and passionate, always enthusiastic and always eager to participate in whichever society they find themselves passing through, with great generosity in any way they can.

Rinakhi

At their height, the Rinakhi controlled the greatest empire the world has ever known. Now they are homeless refugees cast adrift in a world slow to forget old crimes.

The Rinakhi are reptilian, possessing supple leathery hides, often purple, blue or dark green but sometimes red, yellow, white or black in colour. Their average lifespan is about 250 years. They have four arms and no legs, instead possessing a long, prehensile tail which they use for locomotion. Their heads tend to be large and bulbous, with various types of bony crests on their head, which can range from large conical crowns to barely anything. Their bodies are usually about six to eight feet long from tip of tail to the top of their head, but they usually use the bulk of their tail to support their weight, giving themselves a 'standing' height of about five to six feet. They have vertical pupils, and their eyes can be of any colour. The rinakh brain is highly developed, and they possess a natural aptitude for memory, logic and abstract thinking. Rinakh bodies tend to be somewhat frail relative to other intelligent species. Furthermore, they are ectothermic, meaning they use external sources of heat or lack thereof to regulate their own body temperature. Rinakhi thus eat less than mammalian species, but often become sluggish and dull in cold temperatures or at night without the aid of fires or other sources of heat. The rinakh possess two sexes, but are sequential hermaphrodites, capable of altering their sex at will over the course of a week. As a result, the rinakh struggle with the concept of gender and typically don't divide themselves by such identities. On average, a rinakh experiences about a month of sexual fertility a year, sometimes less, occurring in the middle of spring. Their reproduction involves the laying of eggs, usually between 15 and 30 such eggs, which sit in incubation for about a year and a half. Of these, roughly 40% are stillborn, and the remainder tend to be particularly vulnerable to injury and illness for several years, meaning that out of an average laying of 20, about 6 total may survive past their fifth year. rinakh parents are typically expected to triage their hatchlings, prioritising the strongest as best they can. Despite the expectation, many rinakh find the process painful and traumatic, and often take decades before laying any more eggs.

The rinakh possess an incredible affinity for magic, greater than even the elves. They generate 'magical flames' within their own souls, and can use this flame to channel the magical currents through their forms. This amplifies the magic and gives them excellent control over its effects.

rinakh adolescence tends to continue through to their 30th year. Rinakh often experience emotions to a degree more intense than their mammalian neighbours, leading to younger rinakh often exhibiting extreme and passionate behaviour. As a rinakh ages into their sixties, however, their brain develops impressive mechanisms for inhbiting impulsive and behaviour; they become more patient and mentally calm, giving them their infamous (if exaggerated) cold cunning. Their skin also hardens and becomes scaly, which are infused with arcane energy, giving them inherent resistance to magic.

The rinakh have had a massive impact on world history. Unlike humans or elves, the Rinakhi have always been almost entirely unified into a single state, known as the Rinakhi Empire. The rinakhi had cities, armies and governments even before the Fae War; when Arcalimé encountered the rinakhi, their realm was small but united, their cities expansive and their mages highly trained. Furthermore, they'd already managed to slay several Fae by themselves. The rinakhi were perfectly happy to accept Arcalimé's aid in fighting the rest of the Fae. For this, the rinakhi are counted as one of the six Blessed Peoples, but generally rinakhi society has placed little importance on this moniker- Arcalimé was an ally of convenience, nothing more.

During the Fae War, the rinakh slew the Fae known as Sunlight Reflected through Strands of Amber, or the Amber Lady for short. The Amber Lady had created a species of physically strong, durable and docile creatures known as the Voima. When the rinakh slew the Amber Lady, they also took her command words she used to dominate the Voima. Thus the Voima became the possessions of the Empire, and were housed and bred and, through magic, refined physically, resulting in a formidable soldier-species over the centuries. With the Voima at their command and their own magical powers, the rinakh expanded quickly after the Fae War, filling and populating many former Fae demesnes. Other settlers in their way- usually humans and elves- were mercilessly subjugated into the Empire as well. By the 20th century, the Rinakhi Empire controlled roughly a third of the world's surface and about 40% of its population, not including the various vassals, satellites, protectorates and buffer states within its sphere of influence. Khiya, the capital city, flourished into a city of incredible wealth, power and size, filled with creative people, mighty heroes and architectural wonders. The greatest of these was the Palace of the God-Emperor, and it is here where the role of religion in the Empire's development must be explained.

The rinakhi believed that in millennia past, their God- the creator of all- created the earth and all of its people. But God is not responsible for destruction; a different, powerful godlike entity instead governed destruction, known as Bek-so, or 'Doom'. God took Bek-so into the farthest reaches of existence, far away from the earth, and wrestled with it, keeping it from harming the world. In its absense, God created the rinakh to be its representatives on earth, to be its wardens and caretakers. After ten thousand years of good governance, the rinakh started to grow weary of God's absense. Bek-so's evil agents began filling their minds with deceit and lies, which in turn caused the rinakh to become abusive of their privileges and turn away from God. Divine spirits reported this to God, who became angry and cursed the rinakhi for their sins. All rinakhi lost their divine grace, except for a few; God put a little bit of himself into the blood of these few, and they became the Imperial Dynasty. These were living saints, the only remaining conduit between the divine and the sinful rinakhi people. If the rinakhi wished to regain God's love and grace, they had to work to be worthy of their divine emperors. If the rinakhi were able to re-establish their dominion over the entire world, with all the world's peoples worshipping at the foot of the God-Emperor, then perhaps God would realise that the rinakhi had earned redemption, return and bring them all into divine grace once again. It is said that every good God-Emperor goes to join God in his war against Bek-so, commanding his armies and punishing the wicked.

The result of this is that the priests of the Empire actually drew the fuel for their powers from the reigning emperor, who was worshipped as a living covenant between God and mortal. The more people who accepted the covenant- that is, worshipped the God-Emperor- the more powerful it became, and in turn the mightier the Empire's priests became. At the height of the Empire, in the 20th century, it was said that the High Priest of the Imperial Cult, Lord Khena (who was also a mighty mage) fought the fourth Balarine Avatar-Saint to a stand-still, and by themself found Verdant Leshy, invaded one of his demesnes and broke his body with such power that he needed two thousand years to recover. They then stole Leshy's created servants, the Mouraine, and spirited them away to become servants of the Empire, acting as merchants and diplomats.

The powers of the God-Emperor are dependent on lineage, and so only a valid member of the Imperial Dynasty may be Emperor. Oftentimes, certain other criteria are met, as not every Dynast receives the 'gift' equally. The Imperial Dynasty took these things extremely seriously, and often practiced strict regulations on who a Dynast could marry.

As the 20th century turned, the 'gift' of the God-Emperor also began to generate problems. After several plagues swept the country, nearly wiping the Imperial Dynasty out, God-Emperors began to strongly encourage Dynasts to reproduce as much as possible. Some God-Emperors even took concubines, an act considered practically blasphemous in the extremely monogamous rinakh society- but who could argue with a living god? The strong restrictions on who could inherit the throne also meant that some branches of the Dynasty began practicing incest in an attempt to keep their blood 'pure'. At the same time, the Empire began to stop taking external threats seriously, and so its ministers and officials began to politick with little fear for the state of the Empire.

These issues came to a head when the 49th God-Emperor died. In a suspicious turn of events, none of the Emperor's children were found fit to inherit, all accused of having 'weak blood'. The inheritance became confused, and several Dynasts claimed the position. Many officials sided with whoever could benefit them the most instead of the best candidate. No consensus could be found, which led to an extended period where the throne was unoccupied. The Imperial Priests rapidly began to lose their powers, and in turn found their own candidate to support. Not every priest agreed with this, and so split off to give their support to others. The culmination of this was a catastrophic civil war. It lasted for decades, during which each faction leader began forcing their subjects to worship themselves (or their figurehead Dynast) as the Emperor, which powered each factions' priests but left the Imperial Cult in tatters. Foreign enemies began to invade, and were often successful. This period of civil war lasted for 500 years, during which the Empire lost 30% of its territory and half the population.

When the Empire was finally reunited, it had lost much of its advantages over its neighbours. It struggled for centuries to maintain its territorial integrity, but gradually began to shrink. A brief but devastating civil war in the 31st century saw a foolish prince try to magically change the Command Words for the voima- depriving their rivals of their voima servants-, but accidentally dissolved them, freeing the voima from the Empire's control. The Voima left in droves and carved their own territory out of the Empire's hide. From then on, the rinakh had to pay for voima mercenaries to fill out their armies, depleting their coffers. By the early 39th century, the Empire consisted primarily of Khiya, a few other cities and a small ring of territory around them.

The Empire was one of the first targets during the Great Darkling War. Verdant Leshy sought revenge, and thus invaded the territory. In the end, the High Priest of the Imperial Cult- a position that once heralded such power as to demand respect even from an Avatar-Saint- was ultimately defeated, then enthralled, by a single Mind Flayer of moderate rank.

Leshy unleashed his powers on the very land of the Empire, breaking what remained of it into pieces, turning the rinakhi heartland into jagged islands, surrounded by the ocean. The heartland to this day remains a chain of sullen, eternally stormy islands, occupied only by monsters, demons, the lost and the damned. Many rinakhi and their remaining mouraine servants were taken by Leshy into whatever forsaken realm he called home; the rest fled, or were killed, or escaped with the armies of the anti-Darkling Alliance. The Imperial Dynasty was completely wiped out.

The rinakhi people today are homeless refugees, dependant on the charity of others- many of whom remember, through memory or through history, the cruelties and crimes of the Rinakhi Empire on their own ancestors. Needless to say, the rinakhi are treated poorly in many places. Furthermore, their religion is essentially dead, as their priests are now powerless. With the death of the last divinely-touched rinakh, many rinakhi believe that the world has entered into an apocalyptic stage and risks being destroyed by Bek-so.

Rinakhi culture is thus sometimes difficult to explain- one can explain the culture of the Empire, but that is not always relevant to the wider diaspora, who often have to make compromises with their host cultures. Imperial culture was highly stratified on class, and the Empire officially believed that the rinakhi were destined to not only rule the world, but could do whatever they wished with non-rinakhi, so long as it served a greater good (the good of the Empire, naturally). Thus the Empire condoned tinkering and manipulating the bodies of its non-rinakhi subjects, and even taking their children from them to serve the state, but fell just short of condoning state torture of their servants. Indeed, the Empire honestly believed its rule was for the best, as the other species could not be trusted to govern themselves. The rinakhi, it argued, could calmly see the 'bigger picture' and best grasp how others fit into said picture.

The State was extremely powerful and could demand much even from rinakhi citizens. Every fifth hatchling was to be given as tribute to the state, to be raised in special schools to serve specific purposes, including joining the priesthood or becoming a military officer. In turn, many parts of the Empire operated under a caste system that placed rinakhi above non-rinakhi, but also segregated the rinakhi based on occupation. Intellectual and spiritual positions were higher than physical or mercantile ones, and only the State could permit marriages between castes. Moving between castes was difficult, and this was due to a state-sponsored belief in a kind of eugenics, that if the same lineages doing the same work kept having the same children, then the result would be lineages who were hyper-competent and efficient in those tasks.

Despite the grim utilitarian of the Imperial state, rinakhi culture can be seen in a different light on a personal scale. The Rinakhi can often prove distant to other species, but once they earn a friend, can prove extremely affectionate. In fact, although rinakhi rarely display the romantic dalliances that are common in human or elven societies, when a rinakh falls in love, it is usually for life. Rinakhi often make extremely dedicated companions and devoted parents, and exhibit unusually intense personal loyalties to their friends and families. In fact, a common cause for debate in rinakhi society is just how much this impulse damaged the Empire, allowing as it did for ministers and Dynasts to create unfailingly loyal cliques. Divorce is rare in rinakhi societies and adultery is considered a criminal offense, with the punishment increasing in scale based on the social capital of your caste, which the nobility and the clergy facing execution for it. Rinakhi are thus often slow to rush into relationships, preferring to take things slowly and ensure the best fit for the rest of their long lives. Furthermore, this bias towards personal loyalty often meant that the caste system was not as strict as the State would have liked; without the State, the system broke down amongst rinakhi societies extremely quickly. Rinakhi society also encouraged, especially near the end, doing the best for those below you- even if it was styled in a paternalistic way. Weeks before Leshy arrived, the rinakhi began freeing the mouraine and sending them away into safety at great personal expense, and the High Priest, shortly before his duel, dissolved their command words, keeping them forever out of Leshy's reach.

The rinakhi have a long tradition of the arts and philosophy, and many non-rinakhi cultures have been influenced by rinakhi art, whether they realise it or not. This is especially true for music, as the rinakhi possess four arms and thus can play more complex instruments.

Many stereotypes exist about these most ancient of imperialists. Many are obviously negative, painting the rinakhi as cruel, cold, reptilian calculators who feel barely anything approaching love or warmth, abusing those weaker than themselves in a methodical, mechanical way. They are increasingly painted as untrustworthy leeches, thieves and criminals, especially as rinakhi refugees often are forced to turn to crime in order to survive. They are often painted as arrogant and superior, often in contrast with their current status: one famous urban legend paints a tale of a rinakhi refugee who starved to death rather than accept food from a voima (and often the species changes- sometimes it's an elf the rinakhi rejects, or a human…). Historical dramas and stories written by non-rinakhi are replete with a token rinakh who proudly proclaims that the Empire is eternal or some other ironic claim. On the other hand, they are often stereotyped as maternal and caring, dedicated partners and affectionate friends and lovers. Their magical powers still demand awe, and a rare but increasingly common portrayal is that of the rinakhi refugee who is revealed to be a powerful mage, who helps a non-rinakhi out of loyalty and love. They are often stereotyped as possessing a genuine sense of dignity about them, despite their humiliation and status. Finally, it is often said that despite their homeland being destroyed and their Empire fallen, the rinakhi do not fear the Fae or anyone else, and hold their enemies in purest contempt. Where other people still call the Fae the 'fair folk' so as to avoid their harsh attentions, the rinakhi are all too happy to sing obscene songs recounting in excruciating detail how the Empire humiliated the Fae over and over again, often with a crowing refrain about how they broke Leshy's back- and soon, they'll break his spirit, too, and bring him to Khiya in chains.

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