Alaran Races: Zantith

Three days after my sighting of the Asilin slave ship, I managed to run into the other major undead power of the Wastes.

It was the end of a long day. The sun had dipped beyond the horizon. The exploratory party was entirely exhausted, as we had spent the entire day trudging through a flatland, looking for a suitable place to make camp. To a man, we fell asleep in mere moments.

I was awakened by the sound of Sturgis’ snoring. It was absolutely black out, the gibbous moon surprisingly not helping in the least. I turned over and was just beginning to drift off when I heard a noise from just outside the camp. It sounded like a whispered conversation, although I could not make out the individual words. Quickly, I rose and attempted to wake the rest of the party.

I was just shaking Harguras awake when they struck. From all sides, silent figures emerged, barely visible in the moonlight. They wielded long spears, striking quickly. It was obvious from their manner of combat that they meant to take no prisoners. We retaliated, and I traded blows with one of the figures. Out of the corner of my left eye I witnessed Harguras incinerate several of the figures with a well-placed fireball. Soon afterward, I severed the head of my own foe. The rest of the figures withdrew. We waited a few tense moments, but they did not reappear. After an hour we returned to bed, with Allaura volunteering to stand guard until morning.

When morning came, we took the opportunity to examine the body I had decapitated the previous night. We were shocked at its appearance: a gnarled and half-decaying corpse, but one that had been quite obviously alive only the previous night. The implications shook us.

-Excerpt from the memoirs of Thulin Thunderboot, famous dwarven explorer

Sorry for not posting for a few days. School started, and it ate me. Literally. Also, teenage drama suuuuuuucks.

Aux Azalia. Few know the location of the fabled city of the Zantith. Indeed, even the Zantith themselves do not know where the metropolis is located, relying on an innate, inner draw to guide them toward their home.

The city of the Zantith lies beneath the ground, the center of a series of caverns and tunnels that stretches the entire length and breadth of the Wastes. Trying to find it is not a good idea. At all. There’s more than just undead in the tunnels, and it’s not at all friendly.

Zantith is a word meaning “fleshed ones” in the language of the Wastes. The Zantith are just that: a halfway point between the humans of Tugél Vas and the Asilin. They have much in common with the appearance of the common Zombies used as minions by necromancers all over the world, but they are so much more. The Zantith are possessed of a dark and terrible cunning, one used to wage a constant war of stealth and attrition upon everybody else in the Wastes. The tunnels of the Zantith emerge all over the Wastes, and often cannot be found without careful searching. A Zantith hunting party is capable of emerging from one of these tunnels, attacking, and disappearing again within minutes.

Zantith society is not as rigid as either that of the the humans of Tugél Vas or that of the Asilin. The Zantith keep no slaves, all new additions to their population come from enemies slain and reanimated. In the process of reanimation, the outlook of the being is changed, leading to a dark and horrible hatred coursing through its veins instead of blood.

The origins of the Zantith are contested, though not nearly as much as those of the Asilin. This is because tablets have been found that describe, in great detail, the experiments used to create the first Zantith. This proves conclusively that the Zantith were purposely created by a human. No one knows who created them, however, or when. Depending on the age of the Zantith, it’s possible they were created to counter the Asilin. It’s even possible that the Asilin were created to counter them.

Zantith clothing is simple. They most often dress in the black pelts of the various beasts that live in the caves near Aux Azalia. Depending on which beast the pelt is taken from, these pelts can be entirely hairless or very furry. The most common animal the pelts are taken from is a variety of hornless, blind rhinoceros, a common fungus-eater of the caves below the Wastes. The Zantith hunt this beast most often for food, but its skin makes good clothing, as well.

Zantith personal decoration is more complicated than their clothing. Depending on whichever tribe the individual Zantith comes from, personal decoration ranges from a simple necklace of teeth (often taken from their first enemy slain as a Zantith) to elaborate dies and tattoos covering every inch of the Zantith’s leathery skin. The latter example is rather uncommon, but not unheard of.

Tribes control everything in Zantith culture. What tribe a Zantith is from dictates what his role in Zantith society will be, and individual tribes argue and strive for control of Aux Azalia every moment of every day. There are countless Zantith tribes, but several large ones control most of everything. Most Zantith tribes belong to two overarching categories: Warrior tribes or Necromantic tribes. Warrior tribes are made up almost entirely of soldiers and fighters, while Necromantic tribes are made up of spellcasters and mages. The occasional odd tribe is made up of an almost even combination, but these are rarely heard of. A balance exists between the two tribal categories: the warrior tribes need the necromancers to animate new members of their tribes, and the necromantic tribes need the warriors to fetch new reanimation fodder.

While Aux Azalia is the center of Zantith culture, only about a quarter of the Zantith reside there at any given time. Other tribes roam the Wastes, each having their own territories. Tribes trade off guarding Aux Azalia every season, while one ruling tribe remains there year round. Zantith tribes differ greatly in particularities based on where they are from. Those who hail from the petrified forest to the west are adept at climbing and leaping, and often put on shows for the other tribes when they meet in Aux Azalia. One tribe of Zantith, the Agathi, hails from a blackened volcanic field to the northeast, where the very earth smokes and fire erupts from the ground at random intervals. These Zantith have built up great heat resistance, and are incredibly tough.

No matter which tribe you’re fighting, the Zantith are incredibly fierce in combat. All Zantith warriors are incredibly adept at spear-wielding, and depending on which tribe you’re facing, they could be using some very odd looking spears indeed. Some Zantith spears are pointed on both ends, some have curved, falchion-like blades, and some even have slings on one end! Zantith warriors fight dirty, appearing out of cracks and crevices in the earth and disappearing as soon as the battle turns against them. If anything, the necromancers are worse. They use their magic to disguise themselves, blending in with the rock and dust. They then strike from hiding when their opponents are unaware and surrounded. The most fearsome opponents, however, are a combination. It’s a good thing the necromantic and warrior tribes disagree so much, or they’d be kicking ass all over the place.

One exception to the necromancer-warrior conflict is the Haranji. The Haranji are the one tribe that everyone agrees with, because if you don’t, they will get you. They are the priest class of the Zantith. Every one of their members is devoted to Elleida. The Zantith really like Elleida. They’ve even invented three aspects of her: the Mender, the Raiser, and the Destroyer. Depending on which aspect a Zantith chooses to worship, his duties differ vastly. Those that follow the Mender heal fellow Zantith of their wounds, while those that follow the Raiser create new Zantith, as well as lesser undead to serve as minions. Those that follow the Destroyer… they destroy. They’re basic battle-priests. Many of the Haranji stay in Aux Azalia year round, but young up-and-coming priests often are sent out to one or another tribe to help out for a while as a right of passage. The Haranji are second only to the current ruling tribe of the Zantith.

While all the Zantith are technically allied, fights between various tribes occur on a daily basis over land, loot, whatever. The Zantith like to fight. The ruling tribe does not discourage such altercations, as if they did, the tribes would unite and overthrow them. All tribes fight all tribes (even members of the Haranji staying with a tribe will fight other Haranji members if they are staying with an enemy tribe), but there are some traditions: if one of two fighting warrior tribes is threatened by a necromantic tribe, the two will unite to throw off the necromancers before continuing with there conflict, and vise-versa. All tribes will instantly unite if any non-Zantith threat presents itself. To do otherwise would simply be unpatriotic.

Important Zantith:

Chieftain Arcen zul-Shaa Kitinari is the current leader of the Kitinari tribe, the ruling tribe of the Zantith. The Kitinari took power in a bloodless coup (which is like a bloody coup, only the Zantith don’t really have blood). They have been in power for about twenty years now, and they like it. The Kitinari are a very powerful necromantic tribe. Their traditional ornamentation is a necklace of very small bones (often those of a small rodent or bird) that they can animate as a small familiar at will. Arcen’s familiar is a skeletal falcon. When in necklace form, its bones are weaved in an intricate and eye-pleasing pattern. Its name is Durgath.

What with the Kitinari tribe being necromantic, you would think their leader would be as well. Wrong. Arcen zul-Shaa has a basic skill in necromancy (enough to animate Durgath, at least), but he is first and foremost a warrior. The traditional weapon of the Kitinari is a wooden staff, often one enchanted and with a skull placed on the top of it for bonus fanciness. Arcen holds with this tradition, but his staff is made of rare Agathan Heartwood, the hardest wood known on Alara, from the heart of the Agath trees of far-off Swelterholm. He also has a skull of a small dragon, but it’s coated in frickin’ adamantium. He is adept at using this staff in battle, and is also skilled at hitting in the exact right way so as make the fangs of his dead dragon scrape through the flesh of his opponents, which due to a nicely-placed enchantment also makes them incredibly weak for a short period of time. The wound often catches fire, too. The moral of the story: don’t fuck with Arcen zul-Shaa Kitinari.

Chieftain Jirit du-Kath Haranji is the current leader of the Haranji tribe, the priest class of the Zantith. This makes him the second most powerful Zantith in all the Wastes. He uses this. Jirit is a priest of Elleida in her aspect as the Raiser. This means that he’s not terribly powerful on his own, but if you wait a few seconds he’ll summon a friggin’ flesh goliath through the walls, and it will eat you. Jirit is most often seen in official capacity, preaching the glories of Elleida at the central altar of the great temple in Aux Azalia. When he attends these functions, he wears a pure white robe that he says he took himself from the corpse of an albino cave rhinoceros.

Traditional Haranji ornamentation takes the form of an amulet of Elleida. This amulet is usually made of ebony stone (of which there is much in the Wastes), and has a sacred symbol on it. The symbol of the Healer is a skull encircled by a ring of ribs, the symbol of the Raiser is two crossed bones raised over a skeletal hand, and the symbol of the Destroyer is a skeletal fist gripping a dagger. Jirit du-Kath’s ornamentation is slightly more complicated: his amulet is made of purest adamantine (a rarity, as most adamantine is an alloy with mithril to make it lighter), and from the rest of his necklace hang the skulls of rats. It’s unclear what the rat skulls symbolize.

Jirit is very vocal in his support of Arcen zul-Shaa. Secretly, he seethes at the fact that the Zantith are controlled by what he sees as a stupid warrior type. Jirit sees warriors as useful for front-line meat, but not much else. They certainly aren’t fit to lead. For this reason, Jirit has been secretly supporting Ugat ahn-Rhat for quite a long time. Ugat isn’t quite sure of where the secret donations and minions come from, but he’s sure as hell not complaining.

Chieftain Ugat ahn-Rhat Igiti is the current leader of the Igiti tribe. Ugat is contesting Arcen for leadership of the Zantith. In this he has the support of most of the necromantic tribes, who see Arcen as a pretender at necromancy: a warrior at heart. The Igiti tribe is one of the most necromantic tribes in all the Wastes. Every one of their number is adept first and foremost at magic of some sort. Ugat is adept at fire magic. This, plus the required amount of necromancy, leads to his enemies being hounded by burning skeletal assassins. Zantith politics are just like that.

The Igiti tribe hail from far to the west, in the foothills beyond the petrified forest. They are very far removed from quite a lot of Zantith culture, and as such they are kind of odd. Every Igiti mage has at least three skeletal minions. These minions wield Shak’zaa, an odd spearish weapon that consists of a spear’s shaft and an axe-like blade on both ends. Igiti ornamentation is just plain weird. They dress in the traditional black clothing, of course, but retain the headskin of whatever animal they killed to achieve it and use it as a hood. Their traditional staffs are long sticks of petrified wood with various creepy things hanging from them: skulls, bones, patches of mottled skin, locks of hair… all kinds of things. Where the Igiti excel in weirdness, however, is their tattoos: all Igiti are covered from head to toe in various images, in vivid color and detail, of traditional Zantith mythology. Ugat is no exception to all of these oddities. His hood is made of a wolf’s headskin, and his hanging from his staff are two skulls, several ribs, and the skin of his first victim. Upon his skin is depicted the legend of Ugat ur-Kaat Jarati, for whom he is named. Ugat is gaining considerable power, and is likely to attempt a takeover soon.

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2 Comments

  1. pieboy said,

    September 6, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    The fact that you’ve managed to actually attach a realistic culture to a bunch of ghouls is really awesome.

    Also, Albino Cave Rhinoceros is a good name for a band.

  2. tuskedchimp said,

    September 6, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks. It was a bit of a challenge… the Crows are gonna be hard too.

    Yes.


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