People of Aenya: Horde

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Horde by Filip Bazarewski

Ten thousand years before the reign of Radia Noora of Tyrnael, or 5 BGM (Before the Greater Moon), the sun of Aenya began its expanse into a red giant, having swallowed the Xexaz world of Reptos within its corona ages before. Recognizing the danger to their planet, the Zo scrambled for a plan of salvation, but were mired by political divisions. Anti-science factions did not accept the looming threat, believing it a conspiracy to gain political sentiment, whereas the scholarly community were split as to what actions could be taken, if any. Many surmised that the end of the world was inevitable, and any attempt to change course was a waste of the precious little time they had to spend with their loved ones. Evacuation was the only option. But a vocal minority considered the ethical aspect of letting a world and all of its life forms perish.

Led by the charismatic thinker, Kjus, they stressed that the planet could be saved by moving it. Years were spent organizing engineers and workers, all of whom were driven by the threat of certain doom. They labored to save not only themselves, but the lives of their children and children’s children, and every descendent they were ever to have, their species and their home. Vast networks of underground tunnels were built, and a great machine, the mass piston. The machine allowed the Zo to manipulate the surrounding higgs boson field, oscillating the mass at the core to alter the planet’s orbital trajectory. The plan was as crazy as it was ambitious, and few believed it could work.

All the while, the exit majority, led by chief science advisor, Kzell, focused efforts on the building of wormhole generators, fancifully dubbed fantastigates. The proposed plan was not without its share of problems, however, for the formation of wormholes was, at the time, theoretical. Of the major obstacles was energy. Like the mass piston, the wormhole generator used mass to create gravity, but creating enough to punch a hole in the fabric of space-time greatly exceeded what was required to move the planet. Another more pressing problem: even if a gate to another world could be opened, there was no way of knowing where or when the gate might lead. Mathematician and historian, Eldin, disappeared through one of these gates, and was later discovered to have become lost in time. Eventually, after a number of trials and errors, including one in which an entire island continent was sucked into a micro-black hole, the fantastigate project was abandoned for a simpler, more desperate plan. Days before Solos’ expansion, the leading Zo voted to transfer their consciousnesses—their thought algorithms and memories—into an invincible golem body. It was intended as a vessel to extend and preserve their lives, a biological organism which could thrive in any environment, including the depths of space. Kjus, who continued his work to move the planet, was offered to join them. But he refused, choosing death over what he regarded the loss of his humanity. A separate body was designed for each member of the council, one hundred and twenty in all, but too much effort had been wasted on wormholes.

The golem body had a number of advantages to a starship. It would be far smaller, at 12′ in height, and therefore quicker and easier to manufacture. Powered by a heart of nuclear decay, it would require no sustenance, no food or water to produce and store. The fusion of organic and metallic materials would prove impervious to cold, heat, and aging. A magnetic field was added to deflect solar radiation, and a neutronium alloy veneer (derived from neutron star matter) to shield from micro-meteorites. Once off-planet, the nigh indestructible entity could traverse the stars at nearly the speed of light, creating ionic thrust from its hands and feet. After unmeasured centuries searching the cosmos, the golem was to settle upon a hospitable world, where its collective mind could be dissociated into separate biological entities. This was the last desperate hope of the Zo. The greatest flaw in the design, however, was intentional, as the golem brain was made to maintain a sense of awareness. They wanted to feel “alive.”

As Solos exploded into its final phase, the golem launched into space, but Aenya was not destroyed. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Kjus and his devoted followers, the planet was moved into a safer orbit, becoming a moon of the gas giant, Infinity. Recognizing its error, the collective attempted a return home, but a violent solar flair from the newly formed star stripped the golem of its magnetic field, and damaged its propulsion system. Falling into an irregular orbit, the body gathered icy particles near the system’s outer rim, forming a comet like cocoon around it. After untold eons adrift, alone save for the one hundred and twenty voices in its head, the Zo lost their sense of individuality and went insane, calling itself Horde.

Ten thousand years pass before Horde returns home. Encased in ice, it crashes onto the surface like a fiery meteor, cratering the ground and obliterating the land about Kiathos. But it is a very different world from the one it abandoned, a primitive world with two moons and one sea, where science has become magic and the Zo are long forgotten.

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People of Aenya: Thelana

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Thelana 2016 courtesy of Alexey Lipatov

Thelana is born in the river valley of Ilmarinen, the middle child in a family of twelve. Her eldest brother, Borz, is sold into slavery when she is very young. As the dark hemisphere creeps eastward, famine forces Thelana into the wild. Her life is spent on the edge of survival, hunting for prey and hiding from predators. Wounded by a cannibalistic half-man, she is rescued by Captain Dantes and taken to a nearby military encampment, where she proves her archery skills and is recruited into the Kratan army. Years pass until, on the Plains of Narth, Dantes’ forces are decimated by bogren, and Thelana, torn with longing for the life she knew, abandons the battlefield. In Ilmarinen, she finds the crops and ilm flowers have withered, with no trace of her family. Overcome by grief, she manages her way to the coastal cities, where she meets Kinj, who introduces her to the life of the thief. Later, when he tries to violate her, Thelana steals his mechanical bow-sword and leaves him to die in an alley. Fleeing to Hedonia, Thelana hides in the slums among the city’s outcasts, before making a suicidal attempt to climb into the pyramid Temple of Sargonus. As she pries the giant pearl eye from the idol of the Hedonian Sea God, she is found by the zealous High Priest, and the first Ilmar she has seen since leaving home. With the aid of the Ilmarin stranger, Thelana is apprehended and thrown into a pit beneath the city. There she waits, wondering about the man she has just met. Is he a traitor to their people? Or will he come for her?

Most civilized races see Thelana as either a savage or an animal, owing to her people’s disregard of clothing and tolerance for the wild. To learn more about Thelana’s people, see ILMAR.

Appearances: Ages of Aenya, The City of the Drowned, The Nude EquestrianThe Skyclad Warriors

Articles: Thelana: Feminist Icon?The Naked Wood Nymph in the Forest of My MindNudity on Mars: Dejah Thoris, meet Thelana

 


 

Dungeons & Dragons 5th ed. character sheet

 

Thelana

Strength: 12 +1
Intelligence: 11 +0
Wisdom: 11 +0
Dexterity: 18 +4
Constitution: 17 +3
Charisma: 12 +1

Race: Ilmar
Class: Ranger
Level: 1 (+2)
Armor Class: 17 (nude)
Hit Points: 13
Duel Wield: +6 / 1d8 +4 (short sword) + 1d4 (dagger)
Spear: +3 / 1d10 +1
Longbow: +6 / 1d8 +4 (range 150/600)
Alignment: Chaotic Good

Saving Throws: Strength +3, Dexterity +6
Skills: Athletics +3, Nature +2, Stealth +6
Special: Natural Explorer, Favored Enemy: bogren (goblins), horg (orcs)

Equipment: Short sword, longbow, spear, dagger, quiver, arrows, jade cloak


 

Dungeons & Dragons 5th ed. Race: ILMAR

Ability Score Increase. Dexterity and Constitution increases by 2.

Primitive Survival. The Ilmar can survive one cycle (ten days) without water and 3 cycles without food, can walk across the most rugged terrain without footwear, and can survive comfortably (without clothing) in temperatures just above freezing.

Unarmored Defense. Ilmar abhor clothing. In light, medium or heavy armor, you have Disadvantage on all attack rolls and Dexterity based skill checks. While going completely nude, you have a heightened sense of awareness, gaining Proficiency in Perception . Wearing no clothes and carrying no shield, your (natural) base Armor Class is 13.

Alignment. Ilmar tend toward chaotic and neutral alignments.

Size. Ilmar are human sized, weighing between 100 to 180 lbs. and standing between 5′ and 6′ tall, tending toward more muscular and slender physiques.

Speed. Base walking speed is 30 feet.

Languages. The Ilmar speak common and their own unique dialect, but literacy is uncommon.

Preferred Classes. Ilmarin characters are limited to the following classes: barbarians, fighters, monks, rangers and rogues. This is due, primarily, to the setting, in that magic is virtually unknown on Aenya. Monks and rangers draw their power from “spiritual” and “quantum” sources. In other settings, Ilmarin PC’s may choose a spell caster class, but lose connection to their deity, and consequently, any racial (non-human) abilities.

Starting Equipment. None

Songs from Aenya: At Sternbrow Hill

At Sternbrow Hill the armies came

with copper on their heads all gleaming

and copper swords in belts a shining

and copper spears in hands a bristling

met men with men to kill and maim

at Sternbrow Hill they came        

they fought till from the hills they bled

met sword with spear till all lay dead

at Sternbrow Hill

they came to die; they came to kill

The Aenya Bestiary

ILMAR (HUMANS): Though they are considered to be more animal than human, the Ilmar can trace their roots directly to the first protohuman. Hidden from civilization, they live a primitive existence, devoid of government, walled housing or clothing. They typically have dark skin, leathery soles, and exceedingly resilient skin. To learn more: ILMAR

SEPTHERA: This long extinct race ruled Aenya around 10,000—9000 BGM. For centuries, humans were herded by the Septhera like livestock, forced to do labor, fight for entertainment, and at times, were used as food. The Septhera vary in appearance and color, from black, green, red and purple to many hued. Stripes and diamond patterns along the arms, legs and tail are common among females. By 9800 BGM, the Septhera were overthrown by the emergent Zo. To learn more: SEPTHERA. Figure courtesy David Pasco.

MERQUID (singular or plural): This aquatic, communal species once dominated the planet, living in ocean-vast cities that have since become desert. What remains of their kind is now concentrated along the coasts. Though benign, they can become terrifying in defense of their offspring, with a set of retractable teeth, barbed claws and wide glossy eyes. To learn more: MERQUID. Figure courtesy David Pasco.

HALFMAN: A distant human relative, this beastly primate has limited use of language and tool making skills. It is most commonly seen in the wildwood west of Kratos.Shy in nature, the halfman can become a terrible predator when the need arises, counting both human and animal as its quarry. To learn more: HALFMAN. Figure courtesy David Pasco.

HORG (singular and plural): Few creatures on Aenya are as feared as the horg. Rarely seen beyond the dark hemisphere, the horg is found on the outskirts of the eastern kingdoms. Females of the species are turned into slaves by the more diminutive bogren. Adult males (known as bulls) act as living siege engines, carrying immense clubs and shields made of ice and wood pulp called pykrete. To learn more: HORG. Figure courtesy David Pasco.

BOGREN: Small and crafty, the bogren are thought to have evolved after the Great Cataclysm. Their human ancestors remained, or were forced into, the eastern hemisphere, finding sanctuary deep under the ground where the lava flows. To learn more: BOGREN. Figure courtesy David Pasco.

AVIAN: The avian or “bird man” is a human subspecies, which can best be described as a cross between a human and a bird. They are reclusive and fearful, tending to avoid contact with other intelligent races, but are also proud, believing themselves morally and intellectually superior. In appearance, the avian is as diverse in the hue of its plumage as the bird species of Aenya. They are also fond of ornamentation, and wear beak-like masks, which they use to conceal their hominid ancestry. To learn more: AVIAN.

The Princess of Aenya

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Radia by Selene Regener

Once, not long ago, there lived a king in the land of Tyrnael, who had but one daughter. This daughter he loved with his whole heart, but upon her eleventh year she fell ill, her cheeks paling like the petals of a dying ilm. Never leaving her bedside, the king called for every physician in his kingdom, but all were at a loss, for her ailment was unlike any they had seen. With enduring hope, the king sent emissaries to lands near and abroad, and learned men did arrive from as far south as the One Sea and from as far east as Shemselinihar, yet all were utterly mystified by her sickness. Beset by grief and desperation, the king offered all that he had, his very kingdom in recompense, to save his little girl from doom. 

And it so happened, that upon this decree, a wizened sage appeared at the gates of the Compass Tower. Examining the girl with care, he declared with confidence that he could make the girl whole again, brewing an elixir so that she might drink of it and become well. And shortly thereafter, the rosy hue returned to the little girl’s cheeks. Overjoyed, the king asked what the stranger wished from him in return, reminding him of his vow. 

“So long as you know,” the sage said to him, “I can stay the hand of the Taker, but only for a time. At the close of three days, before the moon eclipses on the third night, if she does not drink of my elixir, Death shall surely claim her.” 

Hearing this dreadful prophecy, the king turned ashen, but the sage comforted him, saying, “Be not dismayed, for it is not beyond my power to procure this remedy, enough to keep your daughter in good stead for her remaining days. Yet it is not without its price.” 

The king readily agreed, preparing to surrender his great wealth, his kingdom if need be, but the sage asked for one small thing, and one thing only, in return for his ministrations, that the king take as his own a young boy to be adopted. The sage’s own son.


 

Chapter 1: Radia: Upon her father’s death, Radia inherits the throne of Tyrnael, ancient capital of Aenya. Though she is only 15, Radia finds the courage to refute her brother in court, only to be betrayed by the people she trusted to protect her. Her only hope is Demacharon, an aging soldier from the distant land of Hedonia. But why should a stranger risk certain death, for a girl he hardly knows, when all the military might of Tyrnael is bent on destroying her?

Chapter 2: Demacharon: He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be. He walks through a nightmarish wasteland and his dread is palpable. Is it a dream? The afterlife? Or merely a glimpse of things to come?

Chapter 3: Eros: Like his mother, Eros is branded, invisible to society. It makes him the ideal assassin, the only man capable of hunting down and cutting out the heart of the princess. But can even the self-appointed king of Tyrnael deliver his fee?

Songs and Poetry: Noora’s SongThe Procession

Zaibos Facing You

Zaibos by David Pasco

SUPPORTING CAST: DEMACHARON – ZAIBOS – NESSUS

Races of Aenya: Avian – Bogren – Horg

Eldin’s Brief Timeline

Cosmology of Aenya: The Hayden Planetarium Answers Questions about Aenya: Aenya is uncommon in the fantasy genre in that it follows real world physics. Specifically, it is a moon of the gas giant Infinity. Close proximity to this large planet accounts for the turquoise “moon” Radia and Demacharon can see in the sky. Since one side of their world perpetually faces Infinity, life can be harsh on Aenya. I would like to thank Alejandro Nunez, at the Hayden Planetarium, for helping me add credibility to this fictional world, by answering my questions about an Aenya-type planet.

About the Author: I wrote my first story when I was six, and by age nine, convinced my father to take me to DC Comics Headquarters, in New York City, to solicit my own comic book series. I later attended the University of South Florida, where I graduated with my BA in English Fiction, helped as a tutor, ran a fan-fiction site, and worked as a freelance editor. My short story, The Gorgon’s Lover, was chosen a semi-finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. For more about my life, please visit my bio page.

 

The Princess of Aenya is the second book set in the world of Aenya.

THE AENYA BESTIARY: BOGREN

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Bogren by David Pasco

HISTORY: After the Great Cataclysm, over ten millennia ago, Aenya was forever altered. Tidally locked, the planet remained with one side perpetually facing the sun, becoming the desert, Ocean, while the opposite end became forever shrouded in moonlight, The Dark Hemisphere. Only the narrow region between the two hemispheres, The Midlands, continued to be suitable for human habitation. As a direct result, wars broke out over limited resources. The strongest, wealthiest, and most clever managed to find a place in this new median, whereas the weak and the poor lost their lands to become vagabonds.

Over less than a decade, these displaced peoples found themselves as migrants to the dark hemisphere, joining other fallen civilizations. Together, they managed to eke out an existence under a sunless sky. Forever in search of sustenance, those living by the twilight bore witness to the worst of humanity, routinely denied admittance to settlements whose resources were stretched too thin, picked off by beasts who hunted in the dark, or slain by members of their own as desperation took its toll. By 40 AGM, nomadic groups settled in underground caverns created by the Zo that, in places, reach to the core of the planet. Adapting to this new environment, these cave delvers carved out an ever expanding network of tunnels to house their burgeoning population. Never forgetting the cruelty inflicted upon them by their human kin, they evolved into an altogether new species, bogren, and as the centuries passed, their hatred for humanity only intensified.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Ironically, the small stature of their ancestors aided in adapting to life below ground. Less body mass necessitated fewer calories. It also helped in hiding from predators. Natural selection continued to favor this attribute so that adult bogren are scarcely taller than a human child. With the only light available from fire, volcanic vents, or from Aenya’s twin moons, the bogren developed larger eyes. Ear size also increased to detect predators and prey, and for navigating pitch black tunnels through a weak form of sonar. Due to sun deprivation and a drastic drop in temperatures, bogren skin adapted to both manage the cold and synthesize Vitamin-D, a dull gray fish-like hue.

Each bogren is distinct, and can vary in appearance to a greater degree than a human. Some possess more human-like features, while others have more exaggerated ears, ridges above the eyes, or a bat like facial structure. Body types range from muscular torsos to bulbous stomachs to lithe skeletal frames. Variation may be indicative of caste or subspecies. Differences in subspecies correlate to different depths and geographic regions of the dark hemisphere.

SOCIETY: Bogren society can be divided into three separate castes: workers, warriors, and foremen:

Physically smaller and weaker than their kin, the worker is the lowest in the bogren caste system. Females birthing workers rarely survive, due to the crude way in which infants are delivered. The sounds the mother makes during labor becomes the worker’s name. There is no upward mobility for a worker. A worker is born, lives, and dies a worker. Among them, the worker caste can be subdivided into smiths, wranglers, and diggers. Least of the least are the diggers, who work in the mines with pick and ax, cutting an eternally expanding network of tunnels and hovels, called warrens. Diggers receive the least food, often the scraps left by others. Their lives consist of equal parts misery and monotony, though they delight in the suffering of their own, whenever a digger falls into the magma. Rarely does a digger know anything but digging, coming to their deaths without ever seeing the light of the moons. Smiths works in the Forge, a crude network of bridges, winches, pulleys and cauldrons. They work with molten metals, hammering tin, copper and iron into crude armor and weapons. Highest among the worker caste is the wrangler. The wrangler domesticates beasts for war and for labor. These include saurians like the bandersnout, and the dreaded horg. Among bogren kind, the wrangler is the most intelligent, but intellect is of little value where everything is measured by brute strength.

Selected for their size and strength, the warrior stands at the top of the bogren hierarchy. They are given armor and weapons and are trained to fight. These weapons are crude and misshapen, rarely following any design. Cutting edges and bludgeoning surfaces are merged without distinction to form sword-hammers, ax-shields, mace-spears and other deadly perversities. A warrior seeks always to rise in rank, and rank can only be won by killing another of higher status. Chieftains are usually found among the warrior caste. Others may challenge them at any time. For this reason, bogren leaders rarely live to old age. Warrior names reflect physical attributes, but can change as those attributes change. Such names include: grumblestump, meatface, and bloodsnot.

The foreman is a fallen warrior, having been severely injured to the point of being ineffectual in battle. Typically, they are missing eyes, hands, feet, or some combination of the three. Very few are retired warriors, having grown old and infirm. The duty of the foreman is to enforce labor. Embittered by their fallen station, foremen can be unusually cruel, seeking any and all reasons to punish their workers. This includes being thrown into the magma.

Dark Side Beasts: To supplement what they lack in physical power, bogren have domesticated a number of beasts, including small saurians, like the mild-mannered bandersnout. Familiar with animal taming, and beasts of war, from before the Great Cataclysm, the bogren also set their sights upon more fearsome companions, like the horg. Dominating such monsters highlights not only their cunning, but the depths of their cruelty. Young female horg are baited with icksak fruit, rendering them numb and unconscious. A wrangler then scalps the head, and through gruesome needlework, attaches strings to the horg’s brain. The invasive process drives the creature insane, further feeding into its ferocity. The end result is a living marionette, a near unstoppable siege engine controlled by the wrangler. Should the wrangler companions be killed, however, the disowned horg body will fly into a violent frenzy, before ending its own life.

Wrangler Chiefs: On rare occasion, a wrangler may ascend to chieftain, having learned to control their horg mounts with enough proficiency to act as a single creature, with the wrangler acting as the brain and the horg the body. Despite overpowering any challenger, wrangler chiefs are often despised, their rule typically ending in murder, whenever the chief is separated from its horg or sleeping.

6296 to 6300 AGM marks the rule of Zogbak the Wrangler Chief, one of the bloodiest periods in Aenya’s history. Using sophisticated military strategy uncharacteristic to bogren kind, Zogbak’s armies swept across Aenya, from the Dark Hemisphere to the Potamis River. Over a hundred villages were lost, including the fabled city-state of Kormingar. Zogbak’s rule came to an end when a rival party of bogrens joined into an uneasy truce with a legion of displaced troops from Kormingar. A man-at-arms named Jennick is said to have struck the killing blow, and for this history grants him the honorific of Batal, though he and the other human conspirators were slaughtered moments later by their bogren allies. A new chief was elected for his size and strength, but failing to understand basic military tactics, the bogren force fell into disarray and were quickly routed.

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Bandersnout by David Pasco.

THE AENYA BESTIARY: HORG

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Horg by David Pasco

HORG (singular or plural), the very mention of the names sends shivers down the spines of both children and seasoned adventurers alike, and with good reason.

EVOLUTION: The horg may be classified as a human subspecies, having originated from human ancestors prior to the Great Cataclysm (c. 0 AGM). It is believed that post-cataclysm humans from the eastern steppes were forced to seek drastic measures to survive, and after generations of bitter cold, under the greater moon and with a scarcity of vegetation, two distinct subspecies developed: the diminutive bogren and the horg.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: In the horg, evolution favored many inhuman attributes. The endless night of the dark hemisphere resulted in a dearth of plant life, forcing the horg to becoming exclusively carnivorous. Standing between ten and thirteen feet tall and weighing nearly 500 kg at maturity, the horg towers over humans and half-men alike. A drastic increase in size helped the horg to efficiently hunt and kill large prey, and a frightening set of tusks fend off other aggressors. Due to the horg’s fearsome nature, most of Aenya’s predators do not consider the horg prey, regardless of numbers. Its large size and a coat of fur also protect against the unceasing winter of the dark hemisphere. Large green eyes illuminate for low light vision, a common trait among dark hemisphere dwellers, and brighten with phosphorous whenever the beast is enraged, discouraging even intelligent hunters. Fortunately, most of the horg’s human-like intelligence has been lost to the ages. They retain the ability to use crude weapons, like clubs and throwing rocks, but the ability to make fire or anything more sophisticated is beyond them. There have been a number of scattered reports of horg possessing horns, wrapped around the sides of their head like a crown. However, the lack of any such specimen having been captured or killed makes these claims dubious, relegating them to the realm of myth, like the tale of how the Dark God Skullgrin transformed the worst and most savage of humans into horg so that they might revel in the slaughter of their kin; in retrospect, this may not be so far from the truth, considering the role evolution can play in transforming one species into another.

BEHAVIOR: Horg are solitary creatures by nature. This makes mating between them a rare occurrence. The species can go between 30 and 50 years between mating, and in their brief adolescence, the beasts have been known to be targeted by more intelligent enemies. Despite the rarity of offspring reaching maturity, their numbers are maintained due to long lifespans of up to 250 years and an accelerated healing and immune system. In an ironic twist of fate, the horg’s smaller, much less physically imposing cousins, the bogren, have managed to use this enhanced healing to their benefit. Using a crude form of surgery, bogrens manipulate horg like marionettes from strings attached to the horg’s exposed brain, allowing bogrens to use horg as weapons of war.

HISTORY: In recent history, horg have been used as siege engines on the tundra under the Pewter Mountains during the annual invasion of Northendell. Many men-at-arms have perished at the hands of the horg. On the Plains of Narth, an entire Krat’ battalion, led by the brilliant tactician Captain Dantes, was decimated by bogren armies, due, in part, to the bogren’s use of the horg.

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Thelana kills a horg on the Plains of Narth

 

THE AENYA BESTIARY: HALFMAN

It is believed the name half man or halfman originated with the Zo, who considered the halfman to be, in evolutionary terms, between beast and man. The nomenclature is in no way scientific, however, as the halfman shares 98% DNA with humans. Being a fearsome predator and omnivorous, the halfman is well suited to survival. Barring any cataclysm that might alter its habitat, the halfman is unlikely to evolve into a more human like state.

HISTORY: Halfmen did not evolve from humans, like the bogren and the horg, but share a common ancestor. They thrive primarily in tropical rain forests. After the Great Cataclysm, mass deforestation and loss of prey reduced their numbers to near extinction levels, as with 99% of all other species. No more than a thousand are thought to remain in the wildwood near Kratos, but since the wildwood is too vast and dangerous to be charted, precise numbers are impossible to ascertain.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Halfmen are truly terrifying to encounter. Adult males have been weighed at between 350 to 400 lbs. Their spines are curved so that they appear to be stooping, and they walk partly on their knuckles, supporting their weight on massive arms the length and breadth of which equal their thighs. In its natural position, the halfman stands between 6′ and 6 1/2′ tall, but a fully stretched corpse has been measured at more than 7′  from head to toe. A halfman skull is characterized by deep set eye sockets, a wide nostril ridge, and extremely long, jagged teeth of about 3″ to 4″. Like human fingernails, halfman teeth grow continuously, often pushing out older teeth. Its claws possess similar qualities. The halfman’s most striking feature is its shaggy fur, which reddens with age from yellow (at birth) to orange (children) to red (young adult) to crimson (aged).

BEHAVIOR: Halfmen are solitary hunters rarely seen with others of its kind. Adult males have been known to kill each other over a kill, which might explain their preference for seclusion. They prefer ambush tactics to direct chases, hiding high in the treetops under cover of foliage. The halfman kills in a variety of ways, including breaking the spines of smaller prey, bashing skulls in with rocks, even using pointed weapons against larger prey. Its claws, though lethal, are used primarily for wounding. Should the halfman’s quarry escape the initial ambush, the halfman is not averse to giving chase. With remarkable speed and agility, a combination of bipedal movement and swinging from branches, they can outrun most creatures of the forest.

SOCIETY: Being that its resemblance to humans is minimal, the name half man may refer, instead, to the species’ human like intelligence. Halfmen use language (but cannot write), bury their dead, and can make fire and simple tools. These tools consist of clubs, crude obsidian tipped spears, daggers with obsidian shafts, and hammers made with stones and sticks fastened by twine. They will adorn themselves in the blood of their kill, to darken their fur and grow their social standing, and may also wear trophies of bone and sinew. Despite their intellect, they are utterly lacking in curiosity, prone to superstition, and easily fearful. They have even been known to hide from a thunderstorm. When it comes to foreign species, halfmen are shy and reclusive, just as likely to hide from a human as to attack one. But they are quite social among their own kind. Villages consist of a central fire pit, used for cooking and heating, and crudely thatched huts made of mud, straw and sticks. Except for hunting or to look for water, halfmen rarely wander far from their tribe, and even then, it is only the adult males who do so. Females and children have never been seen in the wild. For this reason, it is believed that they are extremely protective of their families. Halfmen rarely migrate, but if forced to abandon their homes, they make certain to hide any evidence of habitation.

The eldest and most revered of the species is the shaman. Though never proven to exist, Kratan rangers describe the shaman as a blood-red creature with loose fur, bone piercings, and bone trinkets. Shamans are said to carry small carved objects called totems. Through use of the totem, the shaman is thought to curry favor from the gods.

THE AENYA BESTIARY: MERQUID

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Merquid by David Pasco

Merquid (singular or plural), otherwise known as gill, or waterlings to the avian people, are relatively benign, reclusive creatures. It is thought they are the oldest intelligent species on Aenya. Tales of sailors encountering merquid can be found among the most ancient of Hedonian and Shemseliniharan texts, featuring prominently in the Ages of Aenya and among the myths and lore of coastal cities and villages. Before the Great Cataclysm, merquid dominated the planet, living in ocean-vast cities that have since become desert. What remains of their species is now concentrated along the coasts and depths of the One Sea.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Merquid are amphibious anthropoids, but despite their humanoid like appearance, differ biologically in significant ways, and having evolved independently, are of no relation to humans or other humanoid species. Their hide consists of a waxy membrane not dissimilar to a jellyfish, reinforced by chitinous, fish like scales. The torso narrows much more than a human, so that a fully grown adult, at 5′ in height, measures from shoulder to shoulder like a ten year old boy, tapering to a waist half that width. This shape allows the merquid to glide effortlessly through the water, but on land serves as a disadvantage; being top heavy and unaccustomed to bipedal movement, merquid move slowly and awkwardly on land. While merquid possess both gills and mammalian-type lungs, allowing them to breathe in and out of water, their tender membranes dry quickly. A merquid can die of bodily “thirst” after a single day without moisture. While benign in appearance, merquid can become terrifying when threatened or hunting prey. With a set of retractable teeth, much like an angler fish in appearance, and barbed claws and wide glossy eyes the size of teacups, a distressed merquid can give any sailor pause. Depending on the region of the Sea from which they spawn, merquid may differ in size, color and with regards to the shape and location of their fins, as might types of shark. While these other groups, or schools, are thought to be of another species, this is a misconception, owing to the fact that a majority of merquid are encountered by fishermen in and around the coast of Sarnath, and little to nothing is known of their kind from lesser explored parts of the Sea.

HISTORY: While next to nothing is known of their history, merquid once congregated along the coasts of the One Sea, building strange monuments of coral. But with the rise of human settlements, violence against the species became common. At Sarnath, upon which the city of Hedonia was founded, merquid were hunted down and burned, and as the species is relatively peaceful and soft bodied, they had no recourse but to return to the depths. For this reason, it is believed, merquid avoid confrontations with humans to this day.

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Xandr vs. the Merquid by Tazio Bettin

CULTURE: Owing to their alien minds, comprehension of merquid culture may be nigh impossible, which might explain the many misunderstandings and resentments between human and merquid over the ages. Among their many oddities, there is no concept of action or use of any verbs in the merquid language. Everything in their society can be described as simply a state of “being.” Their perception of time may also differ. Vocal sounds are made through a number of water-filled cavities in their skulls, making their language impossible for others to learn or speak, but varies enough so that merquid can mimic any sound to communicate with any species. Females lay spherical eggs the size of melons, which are often mistaken for giant pearls due to their color and texture. Every year, tens of thousands of eggs are produced. Males move them into protective coral houses, known as pods, while fending off predators. After only thirty days, eggs from the same pod hatch simultaneously. Newborns swarm among the females without any affinity for the biological parent. Merquid exist solely for the community, without any concept of marriage or family. In defense of their offspring, however, they are aggressive and violent, and will not think twice before giving their lives to preserve the species as a whole. Though rare, merquid may go rogue, separating themselves from their schools to travel the Sea. Encounters with humans have resulted in limited trade and emulation of human habits. While land fabrics typically disintegrate in salt water after time, merquid have developed aquatic alternatives, using shell, pearl and seaweeds with which to adorn themselves.

TECHNOLOGY: Merquid use primitive tools made of shell, coral and barbs from urchins and mollusks. Much of their technology is based on a type of symbiosis with other aquatic species. While their relationship with other living organisms remains a mystery, merquid have been known to manipulate massive crustacean and cephalopods to their purposes.

RELIGION: Even less is known of merquid religion, if one exists as humans perceive it. According to the High Priests of Hedonia, merquid worship an enormous squid known as Gulgola, which may or may not refer to Tsunamis, a monster described by Omeos, a Hedonian poet.  

I looked out across the waters

and there came Tsunamis

mightiest of the depth’s demons

that with flailing arms,

shook the seas,

and split beams of ships,

and made cities fall

—Omeos, Hedonian poet

THE AENYA BESTIARY: SEPTHERA

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Xandr vs. Purple Death Adder by Alexey Lipatov

Septhera (plural), otherwise known as snake men, reptile-kin or lizardfolk, are a long extinct race that ruled over Aenya approximately twenty thousand years ago, or 10,000—9000 BGM (Before the Greater Moon). They are infamous for having enslaved the early race of man or protohuman. Traces of their civilization have been mostly lost beneath the sands of the Dead Zones. However, Shess, a prominent city now in ruins, can be found far to the west of the Great White Flat. Descendants of the Septhera are rumored to exist. Remarkably adaptable, these “snake spawn” alter their skin, much like a chameleon, to take on a more human appearance. Despised by the native races of Aenya, these progeny of the Septhera live in hiding as nomadic merchant traders, though some are hired as assassins due to their stealth and face changing ability.

HISTORY: With little material evidence, what is known of Septheran history is conjecture, pieced together by pictographs found on ruin walls and fragments from the Ages of Aenya, the lost tome of Zo historian, Eldin. Despite the lack of knowledge, Septheran history is of crucial importance, as their past is inseparable from that of early man. The history of the Septhera is, in essence, the history of Aenya.

Aeons ago, before history was recorded, when humans and halfmen shared many characteristics, there existed a civilization beyond this world, that shone among the stars like a pale dot against the sun. This world was wet, warm and tropical. Massive reptilian creatures, called saurians, dominated its landscape, and of these, two became self-aware. The first were the Xexaz, but so little is known of them that they are referred by Eldin as the Forgotten. Xexaz were large, slow moving, and deeply curious about the nature of existence. But as they focused their acumen on their ever expanding understanding of the universe, their bodies deteriorated, and the lesser race, which valued strength, came to wage war against the elder. Stealing technologies they could not replicate or comprehend, the Septhera soon dominated the planet, and in doing so, doomed themselves to extinction. What they did not know was that their sun was expanding, and had been expanding for untold aeons. Only the Xexaz knew to keep the sun from scorching their world, but as the Septhera had slaughtered them to the last, intent on driving the elder race to extinction, their only recourse was escape. In a massive ship, called the Ark, the Septhera gathered those of royal blood and their servants, along with the giant saurians they most valued for meat and labor, and set to the stars in search of a new home.

When the Ark landed upon Aenya c. twenty millenniums ago, the Septhera found a primitive world, far different than what is known today. Only the merquid, who dwelt in vast coral cities spanning planet-wide bodies of water called oceans, could contest them, but being elusive creatures, the merquid paid the newcomers little mind. The protohumans on the land, however, were simple hunters and gatherers. They did not wear clothes or build shelters, but knew to make fire and bury their dead, and use farming tools like the spade and the hoe, and weapons like the spear and the atlatl. Primitive and scattered, the protohumans were no match for the Septhera, who were physically stronger and faster, and armed with steel. For centuries, men and women were herded like livestock, forced to do labor, fight for entertainment, and at times, used as food. It was not until a man known as Batal, who was made to battle a Septheran prince, did the protohuman revolt en masse. Martyring himself to defeat the greatest of their race, Batal proved humans capable of overthrowing their masters. Once organized, the Septhera were overwhelmed by superior numbers, and when the last of their kind, their Pharaoh, was slain, the newly united race declared that they were, “free from slavery and death,” calling the new age, The Age of Life, and themselves the Zo, a word meaning “Life.”

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Septhera by David Pasco

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: The Septhera vary in appearance greatly, but all have scales, elongated and flexible necks that can turn in a complete circle and move independently from the torso, and tails between half and double the length of the body. Females stand between 5′ and 6′, while males can grow up to 8′ with neck extended. In hue, Septhera can be utterly black, green, red, purple or multicolored. Fangs can grow from 3″ to 9″. Stripes, ovals and diamond patterns along the arms, legs and tail are common among females, the more colorful, the more attractive to a male. Though smaller, females are just as agile and deadly. Septheran royals can be identified by their hoods, a membrane that expands from the head and neck, and are the only of their kin to produce natural venom. Death by venom, which is known as the “purple death,” is quick and painful. Bony ridges and hard scaly protrusions define the lesser castes. While clothing is unknown to the species, Septhera adorn themselves in elaborate ornaments of gold, whether bangles, necklaces, or tattoo like plating implanted directly onto their scales. Their weapons are finely wrought and deadly works of steel, curved like their teeth, which include daggers, scythes, sickles, khopeshes, and the moon blade, named for the waning crescent of the moon. Physically, Septhera are stronger and faster than humans; they are also ambidextrous and can jump from a standing position up to 15′. Despite these advantages, their lack of imagination and inability to organize served their downfall.

CULTURE: Females abandon their eggs in sand. A Septheran comes into the world alone and fights for survival from birth. For this reason, they are physiologically incapable of compassion or mercy, or of even understanding the suffering of others. Mating between Septhera is a brief and often violent affair, and it is not uncommon for males to be killed in the process. Their only respect is for power and so their society revolves around a power hierarchy. The lowest caste are workers and slavers, followed by warriors, with royals at the top. Status is attained by killing someone of equal or higher status, which is why those of the royal caste must continually prove themselves worthy in battle. This is why, it is thought, when a lowly human (Batal) managed to slay a royal and prince in battle, the social hierarchy was thrown into chaos.

TRANSLATION OF GLYPHS FROM A SEPTHERAN STELE
First came the Xexaz
And the Quid bowed to them
And the Ilman bowed to them
And the Seps bowed to them
But with Time the Seps envied
And stole the fire of the stars
And stole the words from the minds
And the Life from the Xexaz
Now the Quid hid in the waters
And the Ilman of the mountains in the clouds
And the Ilman of the woods in the woods
But the Ilman of the land hid in himself
and became Man
Then was the Seps
And Man bowed to them.