Humans are not the only intelligent species on Aralath. The Ashani also share the world, though in the last century they have diminished greatly.
The Ashani are a deeply spiritual people, far more occupied with art, lore and wisdom than warfare and the politics of the wider world. In fact, their connection to the spiritual side of the world is much deeper than that naturally possessed by humans; they are said to live with one foot in this world and the other in the next. This is not an exaggeration; the Ashani perceive the world differently than humans do; magic is a common feature of stories and tales about them. They possess a connection to nature and the creatures of the natural world that seems almost magical to non-Ashani.
The Ashani perceive the spiritual and physical worlds as one, yet are able to distinguish between them. Thus they gain a sense of the history of a place through emotional impressions--anger, hate, love, joy, and so on. They also perceive many things which are not obvious to human eyes-the Ashani can tell much about a person simply by gazing at them (like a form of aura perception).
Today, the Ashani are far fewer than they once were. After the Battle of Yarathera nearly eighty years ago the birthrate of the Ashani dropped off considerably, and they have become a people in decline. The Sorrow, as the Ashani call it (Ash. sha-nathar) has lent a touch of sadness to the Ashani all over the world, but especially among the Silashani, who lost so many of their number during the battle.
The Ashani are humanoid, and at first glance are indistinguishable from humans, being similar in height and build, although they tend to be more slender than average, and have finer features. Among some, their ears may come to a point, though not an overly obvious one. The age more slowly than human beings do, and tend to have a lifespan two to three times as long (200-300 years). Hair and eye color vary among the Ashani, as those hailing from different parts of the world have different common features.
Ashani males grow facial hair, but it is often less thick and dense than that of human men.
Eye and hair color among the Ashani are similar in range to humans, but with a naturally greater vibrancy. Oddly, then, they tend to prefer muted, natural shades in their dress.
Ashani society is loose, with few strong laws or traditions regarding inheritance and no compartmentalized bureaucratic institutions. Even the religious bodies that surround their Gods, and their priesthood, are not dogmatic or codified in teaching or doctrine. Communities tend to rally around wise, benevolent leaders; governance of Ashani settlements is largely a meriotocracy. Indeed, there are few large settlements among this people.
The Ashani live in extended kinship groupings--it is not unusual for extended families to live in the same region or part of a village. Direct lines often share the same homes. The raising of children is generally done collectively, and everyone shares knowledge and experience with the young. The exception to this standard is children of y-keletham.
They are a highly artistic people as well, and this is reflected in their art, music, literature, architecture and even artisanal crafts. All Ashani indulge in some form of artistic pursuit--it is part of their upbringing.
While the Ashani are divided into four major tribal groups, the differences between them are less pronounced than among human ethnic groups. In appearance they are quite similar, although specific eye, hair and skin tones are more prevalent among different groups. The four major Ashani subgroups are the Emenashani, Korashani, Rendashani and Silashani. Y-keletham represents something else altogether. According to Ashani myth and legend, when their Gods (the Aze-Ashani) placed their people upon Aralath each of the them remained for a period to teach and instruct the mortal beings. This is the mythical reasoning behind the four groups. Realistically, they have grown and developed in different parts of the world.
Being a highly spiritual people, Ashani society reflects the inner nature of the people. "Between" times and places are most sacred to them--times or places of change and harmony such as the shore, where sea meets land;or dawn and sunset, when day and night meet.
The Ashani are not a people who believe in evil as a fundamental constant of life. The concept of redemption is central to Ashani philosophy (see Religion, below), and this reflects their approach to the world.
The Emenashani hail primarily from the western continent of Adel-Syar. A great deal of that continent is covered with rough, broken lands, forests and plains. The Emenashani call these regions home, and are a semi-nomadic people who move between established winter and summer habitations. They tend to be a little stockier than other Ashani, being of the same average build as humans. Dark hair and eyes predominate among them, but are by no means exclusive.
The Emenashani are highly shamanic in their approach to spirituality and the world around them. Family and clan spirits are held close and sacred, in addition to the veneration of the Aze-Ashani. Their skill with herbs and natural remedies is without equal, even among other Ashani. The Emenashani tend to be practical, industrious and resolute.
|The Korashani hail from the far eastern reaches of Torthalon, ranging towards the center of the continent as well. Black, brown and red shades are common in the hair, as are brown and rarely green eyes. The Korashani tend to have a coppery sheen to their skin. The plains, rain forests and mountains of the east are their home, and they live in established towns and villages that endure for hundreds of generations.
Korashani spirituality is deeply immersed in the four elements and their philosophical integration into the world. They
have developed disciplines of exercises (physical and mental) designed to produce enlightenment, and take a contemplative, spiritualized approach to the world. Their philosophies are akin to Taoism and Confucianism. Communal and social harmony is important to them, Dance and song are highly evolved art forms among the Korashani, and they maintain a largely oral tradition. The use of magic among them draws upon both traditions. Gatherings tend to be musical affairs. They practice a form of gift-giving as social glue as well, ensuring the redistribution of difficult to find goods.
The Korashani, of all the Ashani, are least likely to get involved in the affairs of outsiders. This sometimes even extends to the other kinship groups within their people. Sabell Lisandi S'Ementar is of the Korashani.
|The Rendashani tend to be the hardiest of Ashani peoples. In height they range widely, from about 5'5"-6'7" for males and 5'5"-6'5" for females. Their hair appears in red, brown and black shades; their eyes tend to a dark brown or a brilliant, emerald green. Their skin tones tend to range from the olive common in Mediterranean regions, to the darker tones of sub Saharan Africa. Their ancestral home is the south of Arenar and the south east of Adel-Syar.
Rendashani spirituality is highly dynamic, and partakes of art forms for which the Rendashani are well-known--tattooing,
and architecture. Rites of passage and great accomplishments are often reflected with tattoos. Their architecture is deeply connected with their spirituality as well. They build temples and enclosures representing sacred space, where they worship the Aze-Ashani, with their patron being Alinar. These buildings are frequently constructed to harness the wind, channeling it through flute-like tunnels so that the walls themselves softly sing. Smithing is also a skill at which they excel, being the most proficient of all the Ashani ethnicities. Their armor and weapons are often works of art in and of themselves.
They tend to gather in pastoral and agricultural communities, migrating infrequently as conditions demand. A holy place is constructed at the heart of each community.
The Rendashani often mark familial, clan and other affiliations through elegant tattoos on the face and arms. Their use of magic is related to this practice as well. Rendashani architecture is organic, and seeks to enhance the landscape rather than dominate it. Smooth curves and lines are the rule, rather than angles and harsh corners.
The Silashani are, today, the rarest of the Ashani peoples. Their traditional home in the Amallon and the surrounding region means they were hit first, and hardest, by the Sorrow that fell after the Battle of Yarathera. In height they are, on average, slightly shorter than human beings. Their hair and eye tones cover the same wide range as human beings, and in skin tone they vary from Mediterranean olive complexions to Nordic ones.
The Silashani frequently make their homes in forests, near lakes, or in rolling hills and valleys. Of all the Ashani, they love the sea most, and they are known for their skill as mariners. They settle in small towns and the occasional city, and frequently feel a greater kinship with those from the same place than they do distant, rarely met relatives. Sculpture, calligraphy, weaving, and other visual arts are their special love; poetry as well is a beloved art form. Nature is a frequent, and dominant inspiration. The Silashani have developed a form of sculpture that involves shaping a tree as it grows, obviously requiring a great deal of patience. Their finished works are often practical as well as beautiful. Some Silashani have grown homes, furniture or statues in this fashion.
Silashani spirituality is deeply mystical, and communal. They are the people of Alqawen, the most beloved of the Aze-Ashani, and Mother of All. There is always an element of mysticism or old, half remembered magic to their ceremonies and rites. Meditation and trance work are common among them.
The Silashani suffer collectively from wanderlust, and are frequently found far from their homes.The greater presence of humans in recent centuries, and their wars in Amallon, have encouraged this diaspora. Today the largest community of Silshani on Aralath is found at Yarathera, where the Selviliya leads the worship of the Goddess on earth.
Y-Keletham (Main Article): Edit
Y-Keletham (Ash., 'The God-Touched') are not an ethnicity, but rather an extremely rare group within the Ashani, drawn from across the entire people. Regardless of ethnic origin, y-keletham are marked from birth with eyes of a vibrant or deep purple shade. They account for less than one in a thousand births, and are equally divided among the sexes.
According to Ashani belief, y-keletham are closer to the Aze-Ashani than other beings. This is a mixed blessing/ The Ashani are not a fatalistic people, and are firm believers in free will. However y-keletham are believed to have a destiny--their births are not accidents but are intended by the Gods. Thus their education becomes a communal affair, even more so than most Ashani children, as they are prepared for whatever purpose the Gods have in store.
Sha-Nathar, the Sorrow Edit
After the Battle of Yarathera, in which many Ashani were killed and the goddess Alqawen herself appeared, the final stroke of the necromancer and his infernal allies struck the Ashani to the core of their being, as a people. Since then their birth rate has fallen off considerably, and there are no longer enough children born to replace those who have died. But worse yet is the spiritual malaise the Sorrow can bring. The Ashani are devoted to the restoration of the world--to its perfection--but in some the Sorrow produces something altogether new to the Ashani--despair. And this despair eats away at their spirits in a very literal sense. As time goes on, they weaken and slowly fade away, vanishing in both this and the Otherworld, and the fate of their souls is unknown. The Sorrow only affects a minority of the Ashani, but once it has begun none have yet found a way to stop it. It tends to affect older Ashani, and not the younger; the priesthood of the Aze-Ashani seem far more resistant to its effects.
In the ensuing eighty years since Sha-Nathar fell, its presence has shaped Ashani culture and religion. All the works of the Ashani now are touched with a deep sadness, and a crushing awareness of just how much of their Great Work remains yet to be done.
Religion (Main Article) Edit
The Ashani follow a religion that is far more ancient than those of Humans. Indeed, their religion was very influential in ancient Amallon, and especially so in Keledon. Several spiritual strains contributed to Ashani religion. Today the Ashani worship the Aze-ashani (Gods of the Ashani). They are: