"We beheld them, resplendent in their crystalline feathers, and as they tore through the sky on their steeds we believed them in that moment to be masters of all things that flew. The harpies with us, of course, disagreed most vociferously and vocally."
—Sebeck, scout, Taelia's Talons
Name: Avanai (singular and plural.)
Sexes: Male and Female
Height: Ranges from between 6 ft. and 7 ft. on average, with males standing slightly taller than females.
Weight: Owing to their hollow bones and fine feathers, avanai are light creatures, despite their stature. Adults usually weigh no more than a quarter of a human of equivalent size.
Skin: It is rare that people see their bare skin, but those suffering from illness may lose their feathers, or be plucked as ritual humiliation and punishment. In such cases, their skin may be seen to be mottled blue.
Hair: Avanai do not have hair, but rather colorless feathers of extremely fine crystal. These catch light and break it up into a myriad of icy hues tinged at the edges with rainbow colors. Plumage upon one's head may be styled in a fashion similar to the way a human might, but do not really count as such.
Eyes: Avanai eyes are wide with dark pupils, like most birds. They have a clear third eyelid akin to some reptiles and birds that helps protect their eyes in-flight and shields their vision from snow blindness.
Ears: None visible, but they have ear-holes on the sides of their heads akin to birds.
Lifespan: About 150 years.
Maturity: 40 years.
Avanai are one of the four major native peoples of the glacial rift, alongside the jotuns, siorcanna and selkies, and have claimed the peaks of the valley mountains for themselves. Because of their avian appearance, some may mistake them for harpies at a first glance, a mistake that soon becomes apparent upon closer observation: instead of being quadrupeds with their wings upon their arms, avanai are hexapods with their wings upon their backs, leaving their hands free for fine manipulation while in flight. They are also far less human in appearance than harpies are, being feathered from head to toe, and have beaks, which hinders their ability to speak Belharan somewhat.
The average avanai stands between six and seven feet and may seem imposing from a distance, but weigh very little; this is owing to their hollow bones and the fact that their feathers are loosely packed, making them appear larger than they are. Their bodies are aerodynamically shaped, with strong chest muscles powering their flight, and hands and feet alike end in grasping talons. When it comes to flight, they are possessed of a wingspan roughly twice to two and a half times as long as they are tall; when not in use, the wings are folded neatly across one's back.
When their feathers are drawn in preparation or during flight, avanai appear sleek and lithe; they poof out considerably when relaxed or still. Coupled with their sometimes androgynous appearance, and avian biology leading to a lack of visible breasts on females, it can be hard for an outsider more used to humanlike sexual characteristics to distinguish avanai men from women.
It is unclear how far back the history of the avanai stretches; while the birds themselves keep records, they are clearly highly romanticized and are more legend than fact. Neither, unfortunately, do their neighbors the jotuns, selkies and siorcanna know or care; to them, these bird-people have always occupied the peaks of the rift and other similar environs.
What they are proud of and willing to tell anyone who will listen, of course, is that they are the better of Sorra's children, bearing her six-limbed appearance and effectively harnessing her gift instead of letting it go to waste like the stupid, scatterbrained harpies have, that they are the purveyors of her beauty and hence rulers of all flying creatures. Of course, the harpies say the exact same things about themselves, citing the more humanlike aspects of their appearance and the vital and free nature of their people as clearly representing them as more perfect incarnations of the storm goddess.
Whatever the case, the two have fought since time immemorial — over resources, over suitable places to roost, and if there is nothing else, over who is the closest representation of Sorra's glory. The blood feud between the harpies and the avanai has been long, illustrious, and downright bloody, with neither side ever managing to gain the upper hand; periods of peace only exist so that each side may be refreshed for the conflict to come in the next decade or two. Harpies have the advantage of numbers that quickly replenish, which is met by avanai mysticism and magics. Perhaps the only thing that could ever stop the bloodshed would be for the goddess herself to intervene and declare a winner, but she has yet to do such a thing. Despite their lustful natures and reputation for being obsessed with eggs, harpies will not take an avanai man for breeding, but tear him apart on the spot.
Society and Culture
Avanai society is highly steeped in mysticism and ritual. A flock may be anywhere from a handful of families to masses of milling birds numbering in the thousands; when grounded, they bear crowding a lot better than other peoples do, often electing to live in close proximity to one another in conditions humans would find cramped. Larger avanai settlements are built in three dimensions as a result of their ability to fly; walking paths are but the lowest layer by which they get around. Masons smooth stone, excavate mountainsides and cut blocks; any other material is soon worn out by the constant winds that howl in the places they tend to live.
While these bird-people tend to live in high, cold places, they need not necessarily be freezing; avanai beyond the Marches reside in highlands and peaks, and may even tend to flocks of alpacas and goats where the climate is warm enough. Where circumstances allow, these bird-people are strangely compelled to build ziggurats; while they cannot quite explain it themselves, they do find such arrangements aesthetically pleasing and those who have the privilege of living within them are considered exceedingly fortunate. Their low numbers in comparison to harpies is made up somewhat by the fact that they have managed to tame rocs, using the giant birds as beasts of war and burden alike. Daily life is highly structured and filled with small genuflections and rituals to Sorra; with these people, the mystical and the mundane have little distinction.
A flock is typically led by a hierophant, an individual who is possessed of psionic powers and of considerable religious import, seen by others as their link to the storm goddess. He or she is charged with leading the flock, performing rituals and making important decisions; depending on the size of the flock, there may be other lesser individuals serving other them. Avanai hierophants possess varied abilities, but those observed by other peoples include but are not limited to: compelling the truth from a liar, domination of others' minds, long-distance telepathy, clairvoyance, and sensing when mystical powers are being used by others. Chicks who emerge from the egg exhibiting psychic abilities are taken to be trained for future leadership positions, learning even more quickly than normal through the sharing of memories and experience. A flock whose hierophant passes without a heir typically dissolves, as being without one is seen as a mark of the storm goddess' disfavor; the members are typically absorbed by other flocks.
Avanai technology is largely comparable to that of the current time period; due to their habit of nesting in mountainous regions and quarrying stone to build with, they have struck resources such as coal and copper while digging. Most valued amongst their kind, though, is gold; the metal is admired not so much for its beauty and luster, but because of the fact that the best lightning rods are fashioned from the conductive material, typically housed in a copper shell. When these devices are situated on various peaks, the storm goddess' blessing is harvested, stored, and made to perform all kinds of strange phenomena when joined with the hierophants' psionic powers. Although avanai do not wear much clothing, instead trusting in their feathers to cover their bodies, they will adorn themselves with gold any chance they get.
Of note is the fact that avanai are particularly proud of their statuary; the ease with which they work stone has translated to them expressing themselves through this medium. A settlement may hold many aesthetically pleasing yet functional pieces, and it is customary for the remains of hierophants to be interred within statues, granting them some limited sentience or even sapience in the same fashion as echoes of souls are used by enchanters to empower items. It's said that an electrically charged statue may be able to act and move independently akin to an Old Country puppet or wizard's golem, although no outsider has seen this in action.
Given the environment in which most of them live, as well as their long lifespans, avanai reproduction is suitably rare and lengthy. Young reach physical maturity at roughly forty years of age, although they are expected to take on adult responsibilities and roles before then — or at least, adult by the definition of other peoples. Mating occurs when a flock has acquired enough resources to support new chicks — an egg, or at most two, is laid a month after the fact, and may take up to another year to hatch. Avanai chicks are slow to grow physically, but keenly intelligent, their minds outpacing their bodies; while parents take a primary role in raising the chick, there are often so few at a time in a flock that other members will dote on the young ball of feathers. Avanai chicks are able to eat solid food upon hatching, albeit torn up into little strips; by the time a couple of years have passed, they are able to get around, if not fly, and begin to assume simple responsibilities about the flock.
Only one of the conditions below must be met to unlock the Avanai Codex entry:
No such transformative items exist yet