Danaij

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Danaij
A pair of Danaij
Region of Origin Ageond
Current Range Forsaken Land
God Ispa and other Dark Gods
Magic Dark Elementalism
Language Danaiji
Approximate Lifespan Up to 1000

or 250-750 years

The Danaij (də.nɑ:ʒ) are the creation of Ispa, the Goddess of Darkness. They are a dark and twisted antithesis to her brother's Idayn, using mysterious dark spirits known as Shades bound to their souls. They are one of the most loathed and feared peoples in Aserra, but following the War of the Gods, their population is primarily confined to the Forsaken Land.

Unlike the other elemental races, the Danaij do not live apart from other inhabitants of their land. Rather, they are the predominant rulers of much of their continent. The first Danaij population was established on the continent of Ageond and quickly subjugated neighboring populations under their rule. Gradually, their power expanded until the whole of Ageond was Danaij ruled. As the War of the Gods began, they mobilized their subjects against the light-aligned races of Thiskel.

When the war ended with the continent of Ageond being mostly sunk beneath the ocean, surviving Danaij retreated to southern tip, which would become known as the Forsaken Land. This region remained isolated under the power of the dark gods. Very few Danaij can be found outside of the Forsaken Land, though there have been individuals and groups who have migrated elsewhere for better or worse.

Much of the Danaij population is hybridized with other races they share the Forsaken Land with. Outside of the highest castes of Danaij society, what makes an individual Danaij is the ability for Dark Elementalism, thus requiring that they be born of a Danaij woman.

Biology

The Danaij are not dissimilar from the Idayn, and their most identifying traits are their unnaturally ink-black skin and magic. However, over thousands of years in power over humans, Danaij'vai, and other races in the Forsaken Land, the greater Danaij population has hybridized. Only those in the highest castes can claim pure Danaij heritage.

Like other elemental races, Danaij have long, tapered, and mobile ears that give them and improved sense of hearing over the average human. Danaij specifically have better night vision than many other races, but with the trade-off that they are more sensitive to bright light. This trait has more to do with environmental stressors than aspects of their alignment, as the Forsaken Land is continually shrouded in clouds and experience darker nights year-round.

The Danaij have a high tolerance and even outright immunity to many toxins and poisons. Danaij also have a high threshold for intoxication by alcohol and drugs. The intoxicants used in the Forsaken Land are often too strong for humans to easily handle, if not fatal to them.

Appearance

Outside of the upper castes, the modern Danaij population is broadly varied in size and shape. The original Danaij were more uniform in appearance, like the Idayn, with an average height of 5’10” to 6’ tall (177-182cm) for males and 5’3” and 5’6” (160-167cm) for females. They tended toward lean musculature and low body fat accumulation. Like the other elemental races, they have conventionally attractive features and long, tapered ears that extend about five inches from the side of their head.

Modern Danaij of the higher castes have gradually become taller, now with averages of 6’ to 6’2” (182-188cm) for males and 5’6” to 5’9” (167-177cm) for females. The lower castes see range of heights comparable to humans with variations much shorter and taller, and an assortment of body types. The high castes maintain a highly refined aesthetic with long, tapered ears, while the lower castes are less uniform with their mixed heritages.

Danaij skin is an unnatural shade of black--not a dark brown, but ink-black. The palms of their hands, soles of their feet, and mucosal membranes (inside of the nose, mouth, etc.) are also ink-black, unlike in highly pigmented humans and other races which generally lack pigmentation in these areas. Their skin has either a blue, violet, green, or red hue, and these colors play a role in caste distinction. The black seems to be an effect of the Shades bound to their souls, as those born to a non-Danaij mother have natural colored skin like humans or other races, as elementalism is inherited down the maternal line. Only those born to a Danaij mother, regardless of the father's race, are considered Danaij--though their caste is determined in part by parentage.

White hair is primary color amongst the the Danaij, as a contrast to their skin. Any Danaij possessed of a Shade soul will present with white hair. Their eye color varies through bright shades of red, gold, violet, blue, green, or grey, but colors like brown or hazel only occur in hybrids not born of a Danaij mother.

Lifespan

High-caste, pure-blood Danaij have a lifespan of approximately a thousand years, which was the original lifespan, while lower caste hybrids range around the low hundreds, depending on heritage. As with the other elemental races, they mature at a similar rate to humans until the age of twenty-five, after which their aging process is stalled until the final century of their life.

Reproduction

The Danaij have a much faster reproductive cycle than the other elemental races, but not quite as frequent as humans. As Ispa was intent on a growing population, rather than maintaining a small one, she ensured that the limitations her siblings placed on their peoples was not present in her own. Pure-blood Danaij women ovulate once a season, four times a year. Depending on degree of human heritage, hybrid Danaij may fall somewhere in between the fertility of human and Danaij norms.

Danaij often have multiple children throughout their lives, far more than the other elemental races. They have many means of reproductive control that they employ, but due to the harshness of their society and environment, the need for a replacement population is high. Women tend to have between two and five children throughout their lifetime, while men may father many more.

Diet

The Danaij have an omnivorous diet similar to humans. The harsh environment of the Forsaken Land has made the Danaij especially creative in their gastronomical tastes. They are also highly resistant, even immune, to many toxins. Danaij also distill and ferment an array of liquors and wines from the exotic and poisonous fruits of their homeland, with an alcoholic content that is higher than most humans and other races can tolerate, but the Danaij can easily imbibe.

Most Danaij food is farmed, but the livestock and produce they rely on is quite alien to the rest of the world, as it has had to adapt to lower light and pressures of the environment. The dark gods were responsible for the creation of a number of strange species corrupted from existing ones in the Forsaken Land, while environmental stressors caused existing species to adapt.

Culture

Danaij culture is highly stratified between a series of classes. Three Danaij-ruled nations occupy much of the Forsaken Land's space. The Kingdoms of Kiran, Mairax, and Nalxad have stood for several thousand years with little change in borders, though they frequently scheme and clash with each other.

Life in the Forsaken Land is harsh, and Danaij culture is equally harsh, and each individual has the potential to be of great value to their society if they can embrace that harshness. There is absolute equality between the genders--the only value gender has in Danaij society is identifying who births children and who sires them. The caste in which a person exists carries far more significance.

Ethics and morals amongst the Danaij fall far on a "left-hand" path. Passions and indulgence run high amongst them, but there are still rules for the cohesion of society. Castes play a role in this as well--the Vana castes are virtually untouchable by the lower castes and suffer fewer consequences for injustices perpetrated against the lower castes. The middle castes of Shan, Shuri, and Chau all have specific protections and expectations for their members. Rothet as well, have some protections as the goods they produce are relied upon by the higher castes. Vauth, however, are at the bottom of society and have the least protection.

Castes

Danaij live in a regimented society broken up into castes. The first three castes are known as the Vana and are Danaij royalty and nobility. These castes are determined by distinct family lines, and purity of blood. Shan, Shuri, and Chau are middle castes partially determined by blood, but more by ability. Shan are sub-nobility, filling the role of knights in Danaij society, while Shuri are priests/mages, and Chau are the bourgeoisie. Rothet are mid to low middle class as farmers and laborers, and Vauth is the slave caste.

Marriages and legitimacy of heirs are determined by caste. While it may be common for upper castes to have children with lower castes, those offspring are often limited in their social mobility. Legitimate marriages are between the same caste or a select caste, but bloodlines amongst the Vana castes are always carefully documented and observed to maintain their purity of blood.

Physical traits separate the Vana castes from the lower castes, and the lower castes are not all purely Danaij. The Vana are pure-blood Danaij, while other castes not only are hybridized between Danaij and other races, but can include Danaij'vai, humans, and other races that live within the Danaij state.

Gender and Relationships

Danaij society, though harsh and stratified, has full gender equality. The only value of gender amongst the Danaij is to determine who bears children and who sires them. Heirship, in noble or economic inheritance, is determined solely birth order and survival. The Danaij also recognize genders beyond the binary with ease. The only area in which gender may be a concern is when it comes to hybrid offspring--any child born to a non-Danaij mother (as in, a woman who does not have the ability for dark elementalism) faces struggles in Danaij society. Sons of a non-Danaij mother are slightly more valued as they could sire further children with Danaij women, but daughters face greater struggles advancing in Danaij society.

There are two forms of marriage in Danaij society, alliance marriage and love marriage. Caste plays a large role in how marriage is approached and who is involved.

Alliance marriage is most commonly practiced between the Vana houses as a means of political and social advancement, with the added expectation of producing pure-blooded heirs. These marriages are opposite gender unions between two individuals able to reproduce with each other. The Chau, and Rothet with significant property, mimic the Vana tradition but with an economic slant. In both cases, the spouse of a lower-ranked house will usually be brought into the fold of the higher-ranked house, regardless of gender.

Love marriage is typically practiced by the Shan, Shuri, and Rothet, sometimes the Chau. As the Shan and Shuri often expand their ranks through adoption of worthy individuals, their marriages are often for love and not necessarily with the goal of reproduction. These marriages confer some legal benefits as a combining of resources of two individuals. Gender, and whether or not the couple has children, does not matter in this circumstance. Polygamous unions also happen at this level.

While marriage amongst the Vana can be strict, the Danaij are hardly monogamous. Amongst the Vana, the keeping of concubines is not uncommon, nor are any other sexual activities outside the marriage, be they affairs, orgies, or breeding agreements with the Shuri. Both genders may have a harem, though when it comes having children with concubines, it is typically only men fathering children with them. Vana women very rarely bear children fathered by their male concubines. Extra-marital pregnancies for Vana women are rare due to the strain pregnancy puts on the body, but when they do happen, it is often the result of an affair with another Vana (as the child is still Vana, despite not automatically being a legitimate heir) or with a Shuri priest for the purpose of adding potential magical talent to the Shuri caste.

The children fathered in Vana harems may not be heirs to their lord's house, but they do serve an important role in Danaij society as the Shan and Shuri frequently fill their ranks with the children from these harems. They also act as evidence of their father's virility to assure their family that they are quite able of fathering legitimate heirs with a Vana wife.

The Danaij as a whole have a very laissez-faire approach to sex and romance. Culturally, as long as important bloodlines are preserved, Danaij are free to indulge.

Naming Traditions

Many of the elemental races follow a matrilineal naming style, but the Danaij have different traditions depending on caste, though some do embrace the matrilineal style and inheritance of magic from the mother is vital.

Vana houses carry an ancestral name, and that name is inherited depending on the house of whichever parent they were born into. In Vana marriages, the spouse of a less powerful house is moved into their spouse's higher ranked house. The children born of such unions take the name of the high ranked parent. As the Chau imitate Vana structures, the majority have united under one name from a founding forebearer.

Shan houses are founded under a new name that is often a portmanteau of a striking noun/adjective combination. This tradition rejects the value of blood inheritance and rather favors a sort of "found family" ideal.

Rothet most commonly follow the matrilineal model, though some striving to be Chau may adopt a founding name. Danaij matrilineal names follow the same structure as the other elemental races with a contraction of "n'" (shortened from na, which is "of") and the mother's given name.

Shuri abandon all family names. If they give identification beyond their given name, it is often identifying the name of the temple they call home.

Naming traditions among the Vauth vary depending on race, role, original caste, and length of their captivity.

Religion

Worship of the Dark Gods is the religion of the Forsaken Land. Ispa is regarded as the primary god, with her children and demon lords filling niches. Certain groups within the Forsaken Land are devoted to specific dark gods, but they acknowledge the rest. Some of the neutral gods are acknowledged in the religion as well.

The religious experience for other elemental races is communing with their element, their inner spirit, and following the guidance of their god. This is still a part of Danaij religious life, but with the expansion of a system of churches, a clerical caste, and involving the other races in their religion. It is a melding of the practices of the other elemental races and the way humans practice religion.

The Shuri are a priest-mage caste that maintain temples to the gods and act as intermediaries while presiding over religious rituals. Aside from their religious duties, the Shuri are masters of Dark Elementalism rivaled only by the most powerful Vana. The Shuri is a caste made up in large part of adoptees. They seek out potential in all castes, though rarely do Vana join, the Shuri instead consider their concubine-born issue or arrange to breed with particularly powerful Vana to acquire their talent.

Magic

Danaij have the power of Dark Elementalism from the Shades bound to their souls. The ability to manipulate darkness and shadow is granted by the Shade, and is a highly malleable talent. The Shuri caste in are the most adept elementalists in Danaij society, though they can be rivaled by the Vana. Vana are expected to display a high degree of talent with elementalism, but unless they have a particular passion for magic, their natural skill can be overshadowed by the highly trained Shuri. The Shan also place a high value on elementalism, as many of their martial skills are enhanced magically. The lower castes have some uses for elementalism, but often they are untrained and their natural talent is weak from hybridization.

To supplement their ability, the Danaij use a material known as "shadow ore" that is mined from astral crevasse and can be worked with in many different ways. Shadow ore can be forged with other metals into weapons and armor, jewelry, and other objects. It can be processed into a thread that is woven into fabrics. The weapon of choice for the Vana and some Shan is the ny’tal which appears to be hilt or handle, but acts as a focus for a controlled weapon of darkness.

As with the other elemental races, the talent for Dark Elementalism is inherited from the mother. Since the Forsaken Land population is so hybridized, to be Danaij is not dependent on a blood quotient of Danaij heritage, but on the ability to use Dark Elementalism. Even if one is half-Danaij through their father, they are not considered Danaij if their mother is not. On the other side, a child born to a Danaij mother and a human father would be Danaij.

Relations

In the Forsaken Land, Danaij are the most powerful political presence. Most of the land is under their dominion. They hold themselves in a position of superiority (specifically the Vana) over humans and all others--with the exception of vampires.

Conversely, Danaij outside of the Forsaken Land are highly persecuted. A few small groups have managed to establish populations in other parts of the world--either isolated, or existing in a few places where they can carve out a niche, such as the lawless city of Gites.