R'jyjem- literally translated, 'Sky kin'- appear as slim humanoids with distinct avian features. Their mouth has been replaced by a hawkish beak with a bifurcated lower half, which combined with a flexible forked tongue allows for understandable speech. Their heads, necks, backs, outer thighs and lower legs all sport white feathers accented with various light colors depending on lineage, while the front of their bodies, throat, face, and inner thighs all feature exposed humanoid skin. The boundary between the two is marked by the feathers shortening and flattening out onto white scales, before merging together and disappearing under the skin. Discounting wing feathers, the longest feathers on a R'jyjem body can be thirty centimeters, coming off the head in a crest (on both males and females) and running down the spine, ending in a tail; a fan of feathers closer to 60cm in length.
Their arms have actually adapted into wings; their broad hands are possessed of a thumb and six fingers. The last three fingers are adapted into long pinions for flight feathers, anchored to these digits and the underside of the arm are primaries and secondaries that can grow to be a meter in length on a mature adult. R'jyjem wingspan is typically double their standing height, and while they are not capable of powered flight for long periods of time, these proto-wings are more than sufficient to allow short bursts of flight to great altitudes, or gliding for hours on end.
The other notable alteration is their feet; R'jyjem legs, at the ankle, appear to be very bird-like in construction. The foot is extended and covered in a rough scaly material, and at the ball of the foot isntead of toes are four talons; two facing forward, one opposable, and one facing reverse. An adult's toes are a fifty centimeters in length, ten of these dedicated to a jet black, extremely sharp talon.
Despite all these avian qualities, R'jyjem are not actually related to birds at all. Physiologically their closest relatives are elves; under the feathers and the wings and the morphed face they share the general tall but slim build1
and anatomical features2
. They can communicate in humanoid languages even with their alien jaw arrangement, and indeed their racial tongues are pronounceable by humans even though some R'jyjem indicate certain sounds are difficult to produce, indicating a much closer relation sometime in the race's history.
Standing and personal value
R'jyjem tribal society is always centered around hunting. Individuals hunt for the tribe, and the tribe as a whole typically has its own goal pertaining to hunting or searching. Your skill and prowess while hunting is reflective of your personal ability as a while, and turns the necessary into a competition amongst R'jyjem hunters. Because of this R'jyjem put great effort into physical conditioning, but not necessarily strength. Speed and stealth are very important factors, and cleverness also plays a part- traps are not 'off-limits'.
Most magic a R'jyjem would perform is going to be magic that increases their own ability. R'jyjem reach this magic usage not through any formal education, though certain specific techniques may be passed down, but instead by accumulated experience and practice in their own personal ways. Because of this many R'jyjem abilities will vary from individual to individual, but most veteran R'jyjem learn the basics of amplifying sensory perception, strength, speed, or endurance, the veterans of the wilds even learning extremely limited tactile telekinesis (such as making items they carry lighter, or be able to throw them farther or faster than normal), and the most hardened hunters may learn to project ranged attacks from their weapons of choice. It is extremely rare that an R'jyjem besides a tribal elder would use any ability linked to the elements, they put too much pride in personal accomplishment.
For a culture of flight-capable creatures, flying does not really take a significant part of their culture. The wings themselves, however, have their own set of customs while interacting with other races. Around those of other kinds, usually R'jyjem will pull their primary feathers back against their forearm and tie their wing to their forearm with a wide colorful band that represents their tribe. Each tribe has their own pattern, similar to Scottish clans and their kilts. They are not allow to unbind their wings around outsiders unless they are about to use them (There are no restrictions on the act of flying itself, though as an extension of the rule some choose not to fly unless it is necessary). The reason behind this tradition is lost to time, but most R'jyjem feel it would be impolite to those around them to flaunt their wings, akin to bragging.
The pack in which an R'jyjem holds their belongings is an almost sacred item to them. It's usually handmade by the individuals wearing them, and holds literally everything they own (details on that can be found in the section below). They usually only part with it while sleeping (at least, the ones who don't use it as a pillow) and touching it is a sure way to get handed a feathery beatdown. Somewhere on the backpack is another pattern band for their tribe, and a simpler one as a personal identifier, usually on the shoulder or chest straps or the outer surface. In many cases the backpack straps across the shoulder and chest are padded with extra furs, and itself made into a chest covering for warmth (and for the females, decency).
Only part of the reason for combining the functions of a travel pack and a shirt are for convenience. R'jyjem clothing is very minimal, because clothing would take up a large amount of the little space they have available for storage. Clothing is almost exclusively furs, in warmer temperatures they are more likely to cut down on surface area covered than change the material entirely. Luckily they are gifted physiologically with a partial coat of feathers. Clothing generally only covers the upper chest (integrated into the travel pack harness) and pants to the knees, with simple wraps for the midriff and the neck. The rest of a R'jyjem's body, except the face, is covered with adequate down and outer feather layers. R'jyjem clothing may have cords around the edges to draw them closed around the limbs or parts of the body they protect.
Attitudes towards property, personal space, and privacy.
The most striking thing about R'jyjem that some other races find difficult interacting with is how they view property ownership. To an R'jyjem, you only own what is actually in your physical possession. R'jyjem spend their lives literally under the weight of all they own, and when they stop to rest their packs never stray far from their persons. This can be extrapolated to the extremes; to an R'jyjem not acclimated to other cultures, handing them something so they can examine it would be seen as giving it to them as a gift. In an R'jyjem is somehow incapacitated and rescued (presumably by carrying or dragging the inert body) the rescuer owns the R'jyjem's life, or at least is owed a debt for gifting the life back without compensation. It is only proper to consume food you yourself have hunted, or that a member of your tribe has (and that individual gets first dibs). It works in reverse as well; if you drop and leave an item you relinquish ownership of it, transferred to the next person to pick it up. Requiring another's assistance in transporting an object gives them co-ownership of it.
This has several cultural implications; first and foremost traditional R'jyjem are unable to form settlements- at least without a very communal society- because they cannot exert ownership over a structure. Tribes do not actively defend their territory, because the only territory they actually control is the territory currently in-use. Physical contact initiated by someone other than a friend or tribemate is a threat of the highest order. Being a guest of certain, more generous cultures is uncomfortably close to being treated as if unable to care for oneself. Fiat currency is literally worthless to an R'jyjem, or worse than worthless; taking up space and weight that could be used for more valuable items (and currency made of precious materials is barely tolerable; R'jyjem put great stock in practical items)
Most R'jyjem deal with other cultures by interpreting the rules in a more metaphorical sense; if you are in possession of a key you own the house or chest and everything in it, because you own the only method of access to the property. Close friends can be interpreted as an abstract tribe, because within tribes the rules are somewhat more relaxed. R'jyjem are very secretive outside their tribes, real or informal, but within them R'jyjem society is extremely open. A tribe is in effect one singular entity; property within the tribe is to some extent shared between all individuals, and the 'rules' of possession are more relaxed.
They put great stock in familial bonds, and similar bonds could be adopted between a R'jyjem and anyone they consider crucial in their lives. Courtship is proceeded by or initiated with an exchange of all possessions between the individuals. An embrace is one of the most romantic gestures, as one physically holds (and therefore owns) their partner, and a gesture only extended to one's beloved, immediate family, and tribal elder. R'jyjem do not have any ceremonial bond such as marriage, though traditionally one keeps their family members and partners identity patterns alongside their own on their packs, to show the possessions within can be extended to those individuals. Removing one's individual pattern from the colorful weave would represent denying that individual further access to your belongings, and by extension, yourself.
edited 5th Jun '12 2:09:10 AM by SOCR