The Vahnatai are a race of intelligent subterranean cave-dwellers. They inhabit the caves below Exile and have for thousands of years. During that time they have thoroughly studied the magical properties of crystals and formed a unique bond with them, using them as magical reagents, building materials, weapons, a way to preserve their most revered leaders, and more. Very little information about Vahnatai is made available to humans, however, as Vahnatai value their privacy and secrecy. By far, the Vahnatai are the most reclusive known race. There is still much to be learned about the Vahnatai but only more time will lead to that.
- 1 General
- 2 Organization
- 3 Life Cycle
- 4 Crystals
- 5 Relationship with Humans
- 6 Notable Vahnatai
- 7 Outside Sources
Vahnatai are a pale race, having spent many generations in the caves, away from sunlight. They have bulbuous heads with large, soulful eyes and spindly arms and legs, which are stronger than they appear (but still weaker than those of humans.)They have four fingers on each hand and two toes on each foot.
Vahnatai are at home in the caves, where they have built massive and breathtaking cities. Few humans have had the luxury of visiting a Vahnatai city, but those who have return at a loss for words. They harvest the natural crystals of the deep caverns use them for nearly everything. The muggy, dark atmosphere of the caves seems to suit the Vahnatai, but their caverns are full of magically-engineered glowing trees and moss that provide enough light to be comfortable to humans and Vahnatai.
A typical Vahnatai room includes plush green floors, oblong pink rugs, crystal containers, a cavewood dresser, a spun silk bed similar to a hammock (on a cavewood base), and spun silk chairs anchored with cavewood.
Vahnatai tend to wear woven, silky fabrics that are free-flowing and do not restrict movement, the most common of which is a poncho-like cloak made from luminescent lichens found in the caves. For warriors, Vahnatai tailors sew strands of chitrach chitin into their robes to provide more protection. They do not have footwear or headgear.
Vahnatai weaponry is unique. Nothing like it has ever been seen on the surface.
Razordisks are small disks made of metal and blue crystal with four equidistant sharp, curved points intended to lodge into the victim's skin or armor. They are used primarily for hunting wild beasts, although the occasional interclan conflict can lead to them being thrown against Vahnatai. During the Empire-Avernum War, the Vahnatai used them with deadly efficiency against Empire soldiers.
Waveblades bear a casual resemblance to swords, but they are much more dangerous. They are one-handed weapons with two razor-sharp cutting edges. The quality of a waveblade is determined by the number of waves in the blade, more waves being of higher quality. Sharp crystal dust is sprinkled on the blades to do extra damage to their targets, and sliding one between ribs usually results in a mortal wound. Unlike razordisks, waveblades are primarily used for warfare against humanoids. Some particularly skilled blademasters have been known to wield a waveblade in each hand.
Vahnatai speak, read, and write Novah.
Pursuit of Knowledge
Most Vahnatai seek knowledge in their physical existence. Much of this is lost during the hibernation periods due to the changing conditions of the world. The Vahnatai not only seek magical knowledge but historical continuity as well. Parties often seek out ancient ruins and study them and report back to the officials.
Vahnatai usually perform jobs similar to those of human societies. There are hunters, farmers, warriors, masons, teachers, et cetera. One job unique to Vahnatai is that of the Ponder. Ponders are like sages, but much more. They are devoted to knowledge, and they accumulate knowledge and use it to advise Vahnatai leaders. Ponders fulfill a role parallel to that of Crystal Souls.
There are many clans of Vahnatai living in the caves. The exact number is not known to anyone, human or Vahnatai, but the number is estimated at six or seven. However, due to cave-ins, bursting of volcanic vents, and the ever-changing geography of the caves, it is possible that many or all of the clans have perished.
Clans are independent of each other, although when contact is established between Resting periods, they trade goods and knowledge.
The Olgai Clan
Named the Olgai Clan after its capital, this clan of Vahnatai is the only one to be visited by humans. The clan is reportedly split after Rentar-Ihrno attacked the Empire, with a peaceful faction trying to re-establish contact with the Kingdom of Avernum.
Several other clans have made contact with humans, most notably in Valorim and Skylark Vale. In both cases, the Vahnatai encountered were searching for Resting Vahnatai to Wake and did not provide much information about their clans.
Each clan is ruled by a council of aged Vahnatai from different backgrounds. There are some distinguished and wise mages, some ancient military commanders, and some retired mayors and town leaders. If disputes are brought before them, their word is final, although an eloquent enough argument, if presented, may reverse the decision.
Vahnatai achieve a title after childhood if they enter one of three professions. There are titles for mages, warriors, and politicians. However, politicians are usually former mages or warriors. One achieves the title "Te" after performing a rite of passage and becoming a full warrior. Mages can achieve the title "Ka" when they reach a certain level of proficiency. The title "Ta" is given to honored teachers, and "Tel" is awarded to leaders of men or anyone who becomes a mayor of a town.
The last two titles are rare and exceptional. Only mages of great strength or wisdom can be known as Ihrno (wise speaker). There have also been rare cases when a "Tel" ascends to the rank of Ihrno. If an Ihrno becomes a mayor of a town, he retains the title Ihrno. The title "Bok" is rarely given other than posthumously. Only the greatest Vahnatai can be given this title. Nearly all Crystal Souls are given the title "Bok" as they guide and advise their people in their waking and Resting years.
There are punishments if a Vahnatai adopts a title if it has not been sanctioned by the clan. Ostracism is common for a crime such as that. It is also a crime to adopt a title lower than the one granted by the council. An Ihrno cannot pose as a Ka, even though he was once one. Also, only a Ka, Tel, Ihrno, or Bok will use his title after his name (ex. Bentis-Ka; Bon-Ihrno; Tekora-Tel; Vyvnas-Bok).
Percentage of the Population
- None - 37.5%
- Te - 20%
- Ka - 25%
- Ta - 9%
- Tel - 5%
- Ihrno - 2.5%
- Bok - 1%
Without enough information about clans other than the one from which the Crystal Souls were stolen, it is impossible to determine exactly how numerous the Vahnatai are. However, statisticians have estimated the population of that particular clan at close to 400,000.
The Vahnatai life cycle is vastly different from that of all other known humanoids. What little information scholars have gathered follows.
The Vahnatai place great emphasis on the spirit. They do not age during 'hibernation' - a sleep which they exercise for several centuries to allow the world to refresh. During their periods of Resting, they are kept alive in coffin-like vaults made as sturdy as possible to protect them during this vulnerable state. Resting is important not only because it allows the resources of the caves to replenish themselves, but it also gives the Vahnatai time to clear their minds.
Vahnatai normally spend 500-1000 waking years in the world as a being of flesh. The first 150 years are accounted youth. As they dwell in their flesh forms, they grow in knowledge, but also in weariness of the material world. As such, they often turn to their minds for comfort: this is one of the main reasons that they are so adept in magic.
When their time in flesh is ended, whether by sudden death or by 'departure' - that is, voluntarily forsaking the body due to weariness of the world - they become purely spiritual presences. Their presence may be brought back to the world by means of Crystal Souls, requiring lengthy holy rituals.
Extremely wise and spiritual Vahnatai are sometimes afforded the opportunity to become a Crystal Soul. Their spiritual presence is stored in a magically enchanted sort of 'living' crystal. From this shell the Crystal Souls advise their people, who treat them with extreme reverence. Anyone who has the opportunity to tend to Crystal Soul's shrine is considered blessed and extremely fortunate.
In rare cases, this process is known to fail, such as when a crystal has a structural flaw or the mind of the Vahnatai is not completely healthy. In both cases, the Crystal Soul is driven mad. Since it is anathema to Vahnatai to kill or harm a Crystal Soul, these flawed Crystal Souls are banished to areas where they cannot harm the main Vahnatai population and watched over by other Crystal Souls and caretaker Vahnatai.
Some Vahnatai, when they are not chosen to become Crystal Souls, go mad with rage and attempt to reinhabit their old bodies. This leads to them becoming undead - the normal Vahnatai becomes a Vahnavoi, whereas mages become Hraithes.
People of the Living Crystals
In Novah, the word Vahnatai literally means "People of Living Crystals". This does little, however, to explain their relationship with said crystals, beyond explaining their devotion to Crystal Souls.
Crystal Souls represent the culmination of a perfect life for Vahnatai. After a life of wisdom and leadership, the best Vahnatai are rewarded by being merged with crystals and truly becoming a "living crystal". (See Crystal Souls)
Soul crystals are often confused with Crystal Souls, despite being vastly different. Soul crystals are used in conjunction with the magical spells Simulacrum and Capture Soul. When the spell Capture Soul is cast at any living being, if the caster's strength is strong enough, a copy of that being's soul is stored in one of four slots in the soul crystal. When the spell Simulacrum is cast, a copy of that being is created to serve the caster and aid him or her in battle.
Aside from soul crystals, Vahnatai have also created other magical crystals which are used as magical reagents or infused with spells. These include, but are not limited to, Piercing Crystals, Unshackling Crystals, smoky crystals, sapphires, mind crystals, and Spellshards.
Crystal as a Material
Crystals also have non-magical uses for the Vahnatai. They are used as building materials, containers, almost anything a human would use a metal for, and in weapons.
Relationship with Humans
The following entries refer entirely to the Olgai clan of Vahnatai.
In 823 IE, the Empire came across the Vahnatai while searching the deep caves. Intrigued by the crystal magic so obviously embodied by Crystal Souls, they stole three of them to aid their war effort against the Kingdom of Avernum. The Vahnatai, searching for the thieves, blamed the nearest humans they could find - the Avernites. While some Vahnatai wanted to attack Avernum right away, Bon-Ihrno convinced them to talk with the strange humans first. Nonetheless, the Council began laying the groundwork for an attack by putting up impenetrable magical barriers through Avernum, splitting it into small sections and blocking the roads. Perhaps the saddest part of the ordeal is that the Vahnatai could not even comprehend theft until the Empire took the Crystal Souls.
In order to prove their innocence, Avernum sent a band of adventurers down a treacherous labyrinth of rivers and waterfalls, called the Black Waters, to Vahnatai lands, where they were able to convince the elders in Olgai that it was the Empire who stole the Crystal Souls and promised to recover them. Once they recovered the Crystal Souls, the Vahnatai swore revenge on the Empire and helped turn the tide of the Empire-Avernum War in favor of the cave-dwellers.
However, for some, merely driving the Empire out of Exile was not enough. Led by the great mage Rentar-Ihrno, this group of Vahnatai split off from the Olgai clan and staged their own revenge. Splitting the Vahnatai and Crystal Souls in the process, this powerful faction battered Valorim with monster plagues until another group of adventurers, in 834 IE, tracked Rentar-Ihrno to her fortress. With the help of Erika Redmark, the adventurers shut down the factory and blew it up. However, Rentar-Ihrno escaped and vowed revenge on both the Empire and the Kingdom of Avernum.