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The sun was slowly falling beyond the rolling dunes when I first laid eyes upon Marachesia. I don’t know if it was a hallucination from the two weeks I had spent in the desert, an arcane trick, or a fortunate wind, but the faint scents of beautiful spices and exquisite perfumes still reached my nose. In a trance, I shuffled down towards the city as small lanterns and torches began to flicker with light. As I was lead towards the city gates I could begin to make out tapestries and banners of all shades and colors: purples, teals, greens, and yellows. Each caught the sun’s final rays and glistened like gems. Each danced in the momentary desert breeze.
As night settled in, I was able to make my way to the Runic Alley- a proud and storied arcane market. The sounds of laughter and music echoed in the otherwise empty and still pathway. Somewhere in this tangled mess of oddly shaped and styled buildings, I would find my contact. As I began to fumble my way through my hastily recorded directions, a stranger knocked into me. “Many apologies,” he whispered as he slunk away.
No stranger to the ways of the cities, I managed to grab him by the hand. Well, paw that is. I found a small satchel of residuum I normally carry firmly caught between his nimble fingers. As I met his eyes, a toothy smile spread across his face, “Turu said you would be fast.” His fingers loosened, and the pouch dropped into my hands. “He said the same about you,” I replied. After a short moment, he led me from the dark passage and into a dingy bar a few block down.
I reached for the door, but found his arm in the way. “Before you go in, know this. Many come to stare and point, but they do not stay for long. You understand this?”
“Yes. I’m here for research, not mockery.”
“Good answer.” As the door swung open, I took a moment to let reality catch up to me. There, in the middle of the desert, I saw a race of humanoids so elusive, many believed them to be bar tales- half-human, half-animal. The Animus blend the physiologies of their forms perfectly, taking strength from both halves of their blood. As my eyes quickly glanced across the room, I saw the forms of canines, owls, and many more beasts.
Realizing I had stopped moving, I composed myself. I nodded to the few who made eye contact with me, and took a seat in the corner with my strange new friend. “So,” he started, “where should we begin?”
The Strength of The Many
Unlike the Tabaxi, Lizardfolk, and Kenku, the peoples joined under the umbrella title of Animus were not originally born in these forms. According to the little research I’ve been able to find, the Animus first emerged from the Druidic tribes near Bal’Gorod. After an unknown conflict, a smaller group splintered off and began their journey east. As they wandered the vastly complex geography from the bogs, through the mountains, drylands, and deserts they began to intentionally shape their bodies.
While it is a well-known fact that many Druidic tribes can take the forms of animals, few can truly harness these abilities. Over a long time, the wanderers began to change their forms permanently- taking strengths and inspiration from nature. From their original forms, they maintained their mental prowess and bipedal nature. Thus, they adapted to thrive in the darkness and live off of the wilderness.
Each form of Animus is unique, and brings individual strengths to the tribe. The physical forms of the Bovus and Equus clans are specimens to behold. The Raccatoo and Stirixi peoples bring deftness and cunning. The social and communal fabric is the product of the Canus and the Hominus.
As the acolytes of the goddess Shu know, “All things are connected.” This could not be more true of the Animus. Their unique society exists because of the individual talents of those who make up the race. While virtually all members are now naturally born into this race, there are still some that know the ancient magics. I feel this fits the proud people of this community. They are born of a unique gift that all too many have forgotten.
While I have done my best to identify each of the major subraces of the Animus, it is possible I may have missed some. Many are fiercely independent, and guard their true natures carefully. I may have also missed the odd passer-by in my ignorance. Should you uncover any specimens of this race not cataloged here, please direct them to Kern’s Curio in Ishtar. Inform them, if they are willing, that Carras Rosestem will offer them mystical services for their troubles in exchange for the opportunity to learn from them.
All Things Are Earned
It is an unfortunate truth that the world is cruel. It is far more unfortunate that cruelty is often a choice. As is all too often the case, the Animus have learned to be cautious and distrusting of outsiders. It is not meant as a token of disrespect, but a mechanism for survival. When I first entered Marachesia, I was the outsider. It took many weeks of cooperative research, favors, and purchased drinks to earn a place among these fascinating souls.
The Animus are proud of their communities, and share an incredible bond between one another. But, nobody eats for free. Individuals must earn their place in the group, and respect is the most valuable social currency. Once earned, it cannot be ignored. One lost, it cannot be regained. In human society, it is common to introduce yourself with you family’s name. In this community, you share your contributions to the whole. Carras Rosestem was meaningless. Carras the Researcher placed me in the social standings.
When establishing a relationship, don’t jump to personal stories or financial offerings. Instead, offer a minor service. The cooking of a meal or the completion of a simple task. During my first few days, simple cantrips to mend and clean earned me more notability than ever before. In most societies, this would be as bartering. In this case, I was proving my genuine interest in their culture by investing my time and labor. As one put it, “Spending money is easy. Spending time is hard.”
While mostly taking personality traits from their humanoid halves, the Animus are still influenced by animalistic natures. Even those born naturally to long blood lines display leftover quirks. The most common behaviors are noted below:
|1||I find beds uncomfortable, and prefer to sleep on something sturdy.|
|2||Sleeping during the day feels natural. I’d rather stay up all night.|
|3||Strange things startle me. I feel anxious/defensive at the drop of a hat.|
|4||My home is my space. Outsiders aren’t welcome.|
|5||It doesn’t take much to entertain me. I could spend all day jogging and feel content.|
|6||My feet are very dexterous. They’re a second set of hands. I feel no shame using them.|
|7||In times of stress and excitement, I make strange noises.|
|8||I prefer to spend my time higher up. Towers and rooftops feel natural to me.|
While each subrace is unique, the Animus have many common traits across bloodlines. Within the race, I’ve noticed the following common characteristics and measurements.
Age: The magic nature of their being actually taxes them physically. Most Animus live shorter lives than humans, but not by much; however, they mature much faster. Most individuals are fully grown by age 10, and live to be 60 years old.
Alignment: Morality is an interesting subject within the Animus. Their strong communal bonds often drive them to what most research describes as a “Lawful” nature; however, this may not extend to a respect of the law. Allegiances exist between individuals, not abstract entities such as the state. Others feel shunned by society, and seek to return to nature and their Druidic pasts. In both cases, few Animus are truly maleficent. In general, they tend towards neutrality, if not seeking the benefit of the whole. As noted above, this extends to trusted individuals primarily. Those who haven’t earned the respect of an Animus may be treated indifferently or with mild contempt.
Size: The height of an Animus can vary greatly. On average, they are taller than Humans but shorter than Orcs. In the standard classification system, their size is Medium.
Speed: The Animus are capable of quick movement that outpaces most humans. I’ve consistently measured a base walking speed of 35 feet.
Darkvision and Colorless Vision: As is true with other races that have taken on animalistic characteristics, the Animus have considerably better low-light vision than humans. In dim light, they can see up to 60 feet as if it were brightly lit. In darkness, they are capable of sight as if there were poor lighting available. An interesting note is that most of the species is entirely colorblind. To my knowledge, this is a leftover trait, but only manifests in four of five individuals. More research is needed to determine the root cause.
Pure Instinct: As is the case with their personalities, the survival traits of the predecessor animals shine through. While uniquely skilled, most Animus are proficient in one of the following knowledge or skill domains: Nature, Stealth, Survival, or Perception.
Language: The Animus I interacted with all spoke and wrote Common. When they communicated with each other, they also utilized a complex language heavily reliant upon gesturing. This language was later identified as Myyra, and is a descendent of the Druidic languages found in the west.
Spiritual Connection: As descendants of animals, each subrace has a particular affinity to their sister species. Animus may freely communicate with beasts of their connected physiology. Additionally, the are generally considered proficient in the trade of Animal Handling with the same group of creatures.
The first note I will make about the Bovus is a warning to the reader: Do not mistake these proud people for the Minotaur. This particular subrace, while sharing many physical characteristics with the Minotaur, is a distinct and unique population. The most notable differences are the lack of hoofed feet and the reduced physical stature.
The fur patterns of the Bovus can be quite distinct, but most individuals are solid brown or black. Horns also appear as secondary sex characteristics, and often grow to a maximum of eight inches. In one rare case, I met a bartender whose horns measured one and a half feet. Apiece. Many individuals are born with tails, but this is not universal.
The Bovus are physically impressive, and are often the tallest and strongest members of the race. They can weather incredible conditions without the slightest complaint. Their willpower and endurance is something to behold. While many find them stubborn, I find them proud and determined.
Most genealogies link the Bovus back to the Orcs and Goliaths of the Razor Fang Druids. As such, they typically pick their first names from these two races. These names are usually unique within communities, only repeated after a generation or two has passed. Family names are uncommon, but first names may borrow portions from those of the parents.
The Bovus share many traits with one another. A few examples have been catalogued below:
Ability Scores: After measuring the six core abilities of the subrace on Ilythyrra’s scale, I consistently found that Bovus displayed a 2 point bonus in the Strength dimension, and a 1 point bonus in the Constitution dimension.
Acclimation: The physical endurance of the Bovus have adapted them for cold climates. They appear to be resistant to Cold damage and weather patterns.
Test of Might: In dire straights, the Bovus are able to display extraordinary feats of strength. They have a natural advantage when making Saving Throws with their Strength. Additionally, few can truly wrestle or fight with a Bovus. Those attempting to grapple or restrain one will face an innate disadvantage unless they are at least considered Large.
My first contact with the Animus, as journaled above, was with a Raccatoo named Sulmit. As their name suggests, they take after the Raccoons found in cities across the continent. Unlike the other subraces noted here, their individual physical characteristics are the hardest to spot with an untrained eye. The black and white “masks” along their eyes and snouts are unique to each individual, as are the rings around their tails. The rest of their fur blends from a soft grey to a warm brown.
Their hands, or paws, are the most fascinating aspect of their physiology. As Sulmit and I spoke, he effortlessly wove coins between his fingers at incredible speeds. They are nimble but steady, and constantly in motion. As I discovered, most Raccatoo are innately restless. They bore quickly, especially if they are waiting on someone else.
Unlike their compatriots, the Raccatoo take no single source of inspiration for their names. It is quite common for parents to create unique names for their children. It is also quite common for individuals to choose their own names as they mature. In this regard, the Raccatoo name themselves quite like the Tabaxi peoples.
Raccatoo share many traits with one another. A few examples have been catalogued below:
Ability Scores: After measuring the six core abilities of the subrace on Ilythyrra’s scale, I consistently found that Raccatoo displayed a 2 point bonus in the Dexterity dimension, with an additional 1 point bonus in the Wisdom dimension.
Nimble Curiosity: The nimble hands of the Raccatoo give them an innate proficiency with Sleight of Hand games and tricks. A profound sense of curiosity is also common. Members of this subrace find a natural advantage when attempting to understand the workings of simple contraptions, traps, and locks.
Scavengers: Spoiled food seems to have little effect on the stomachs of Raccatoo. They are immune to minor diseases and food poisoning.
Of all subraces, the Equus have faced the most unique challenges. Conventional fashion and armor does not accommodate their long faces, and custom designs are necessary. Unfortunately, this places an increased and undue financial burden on them. I don’t know if it’s a product of their blood or their culture, but the Equus have shouldered this burden with dignity. They are durable and stoic, even when compared to the Bovus.
Much like the horses they molded themselves after, the Equus come in all shapes and sizes. Furs stretch across a large array of colors, patterns, and lengths. The coarse hair that runs down their neck is just as varied too. The rest of their physiology, much like the Bovus, tends towards a humanoid nature. Their feet resemble those of a human, and are never hoofed.
The Equus differ from the other Animus subraces in their nomenclature. Most of their ancestors are human, and so they do value their family names. Much like the Dwarves, they pride themselves not only on their proud lineage, but also on their unique talents and crafts.
Equus share many traits with one another. A few examples have been catalogued below:
After measuring the six core abilities of the subrace on Ilythyrra’s scale, I consistently found that Equus displayed a 2 point bonus in the Constitution dimension. Individuals were split down the middle on their secondary trait. Some were born with 1 additional point in the Strength dimension and others had 1 point in the Charisma dimension.
Fleet of Foot:
The Equus are able to far outpace any other race I’ve seen. When dashing, they were able to run an additional 10 feet every six seconds.
A profound endurance has blessed these people. When calculating their carrying capacity, and abilities to push, drag, and lift, I found they met the physical characteristics of a being in the Large category.
While I have never spent much time studying the animals of this world, the great apes of the drylands have always piqued my interest. They remind me so much of my own race. Perhaps a link exists between our two species- but, I digress. The animalistic legacy of the Hominus is quite evident.
Most of the individuals I had met resembled orangutans and gorillas; however, there is representation across all apes. This has lead to a wide spectrum of heights, weights, and abilities. The unifying thread, aside from their shared physicality, of course, was a remarkable intellect. Naturally, this has lead to a fierce sense of independence.
This makes the Hominus a difficult people to describe. Much like humans, I find them caught amongst many contradictions. Independent, yet firmly invested in their communities. Deeply connected to their heritage, but born of two pasts. Traditional, but forward-thinking.
Given their independence, it’s no surprise that the Hominus prefer to stick to unique names. Ironically, this has driven them to select names much in the way the Dragonborn do. The clan or family name usually precedes the given name, and it’s not uncommon for children to use long-lasting nicknames.
Clan Names: Awa, Bibi, Diba, Dorakshan, Farzan, Goli, Gulshan, Hasti, Javanam, Kukrit, Noshin, Parsa, Tanaz, Yar, Zhala
Given Names: Aaufa, Adofo, Anaa, Benpe, Caana, Dagon, Ebo, Farideh, Haas, Hammu, Kau, Khait, Namerta, Nane, Mehen, Mesu, Ottah, Ouza, Petiri, Ruti, Senna, Tehak, Ufa, Uska, Zaid
Hominus share many traits with one another. A few examples have been catalogued below:
After measuring the six core abilities of the subrace on Ilythyrra’s scale, I consistently found that Hominus displayed a 2 point bonus in the Intelligence dimension. Given a wildly diverse bloodline and upbringing, they displayed no consistent secondary trait. Each individual had, on average, a 1 point bonus in one of the five remaining dimensions of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, and Charisma. This may be tied to their animalistic legacy, but I cannot confirm that hypothesis at this time.
The Hominus display an incredible affinity for climbing. So much so that they can move equally fast up a tree or uneven wall as they could walking. Even in difficult situations, they seemed to suffer no penalties when focused on the task.
An unparalleled hand-eye coordination has made the Hominus naturally proficient in throwing small items, daggers, and darts.
It should come as no surprise that the Elves found their strongest kinship with the owls. Their feathers form beautiful and nuanced patterns in a stunning array of colors. Their eyes are piercing and sharp. Their beaks are subtle yet powerful. Unfortunately, their bloodline does not carry forth the gift of flight like that of the Aarakocra.
The feathering continues through the lower torso and down the arms, and goes through a regular cycle of molting. The longest feathers measure approximately eight inches in length, and coloring remains uniform. In addition to feathers, the Stirixi have also inherited the amazingly nimble necks of owls. Individuals can rotate their head on all three axes far more than any other race.
Oddly enough, while it is most likely that the Wood Elves belonged to the Razor Fangs, the Stirixi more closely resemble the Drow. Nocturnal habits and an aversion to sunlight are uncomfortable truths; however, this has made them uniquely qualified to take up the nightly watch over Marachesia. Their ability to turn a disadvantage in their favor is the true marking of their elvish blood and their quick wit.
Elvish names are quite common among the Stirixi; however, they are usually modified to accommodate a very different mouth shape. This modification can be most easily described as the inverse of a lisp- sharper sounds and metered names are often changed to flow and roll of the tongue. For example, the name Aelith might turn into Aelis, Riardon adapts into Riaro, and so on.
Stirixi share many traits with one another. A few examples have been catalogued below:
After measuring the six core abilities of the subrace on Ilythyrra’s scale, I consistently found that Stirixi displayed a 2 point bonus in the Wisdom dimension. They also displayed an additional 1 point in the Intelligence dimension.
As stated earlier, the Stirixi are extremely sensitive to bright light, and often choose to live nocturnally. In they daylight, they were at a constant disadvantage on all tests of Perception that relied upon sight. In critical moments of self-defense, this disadvantage could prove quite harmful.
In the darkness, their darkvision is far superior to most other races. Stirixi can consistently perceive object up to 120 feet away in darkness, and have a natural proficiency in Perception in dimly lit conditions.
The beaks of the Stirixi can be used as a final form of unarmed self-defense. When a bite connects with a foe, it can be as deadly as a piercing dagger with the addition of their Strength behind it. (1d4 + Strength Modifier)
The hunting prowess of the owl is not lost on the Stirixi people. The Stirixi’s sharp eyes and near-perfect hearing grant them a natural advantage, when actively tracking a target.
There is a saying that dog is man’s best friend. This unwavering charisma has passed directly on to the Canus people, who have a wonderful appreciation for the gift of life. They remind me of the Halflings with their constant cheer; however, not all Canus are alike. In dire straights, they can peel away your mental self-defense with as little as a snarl.
Like the Stirixi and Hominus, their bodies take on many shapes and sizes. As noted previously, this is probably connected to the original breeds of dogs the Animus molded themselves after. Fur may range from short and streamlined to long and majestic. Colors and patterns vary just as much.
Of all the animal-like features, the snout, tail, and ears are the most pronounced. Similar to the Tabaxi, the Canus have little direct control over them. Instead of blushing, the ears may perk directly up and their tails may wag. The exaggerated physical emotions are deeply tied to Canus culture, where self-expression is vital to survival. The Canus are the social glue that binds Animus communities together, and a crucial part of their communal lives.
The Canus had no single race of predecessors. Therefore, their names are often tributes to legendary figures, old family friends, and relatives no longer with us. Names may come from any culture or language, and are frequently mixed within family units.
Canus share many traits with one another. A few examples have been catalogued below:
After measuring the six core abilities of the subrace on Ilythyrra’s scale, I consistently found that Canus displayed a 2 point bonus in the Charisma dimension. They also displayed an additional 1 point in the Wisdom dimension.
The Canus culture develops many natural social skills. They can read social cues and facial emotions with ease, and have proficiency with gleaning personal Insight. Their lifestyles also make Canus proficient in one form of Charismatic influence; be it Persuasion, Deception, or Intimidation.
The powerful and precise noses of their ancestors give Canus the ability to pick up on scents lost to all others. Their Perception extends beyond that of a Human or an Elf, and have an advantage when searching via their noses.