With the world of The Star-Runner Chronicles being a fantasy world, naturally there are many different races of beings about. These races of beings are grouped into six categories: homins, fae, manbeasts, fae-beasts, shapeshifters, and the monster races. The races of beings in each group share certain characteristics of magical aptitude, scientific aptitude, appearance, sociological idiosyncrasies, and various unique abilities which link them to each other. Of course, there is plenty of variation between the different races in each group and individuals of any given race, but it is the average attributes and abilities which are looked at in classification, not the stand-out cases.
Group 1: Homins
The homins are the group to which humanity belongs—along with other beings such as dwarves, gnomes, goblins, orcs, trolls, ghouls, gremlins, and wildmen (which are split into the mountain-loving Ye-Ti tribe and the forest-dwelling Sas-Kwach tribe). Homins are generally good to passable in terms of magic, though the goblins are nearly as magically talented as the elves and pride themselves on it…some may say a little too much. However, where the homin races truly shine is in the area of science and engineering.
Be it chemistry (the specialty of the ghouls), metallurgy (dwarves and orcs pride themselves on their ability to work with metal…for entirely different reasons), mechanical engineering (the great strength of the human race and the downright addiction of the gremlins), or simply the science of being able to elevate the standard of living of your people without bulldozing the natural world flat in the process (gnomes and wildmen being the experts here), homins have a natural knack for manipulating the elements of the physical world without a scrap of magic and coming up with results which work almost just as well as a spell. All homins have a strong interest in how the non-magical aspects of the world work—though in some races that curiosity is stronger than in others—and hold in high esteem the ability to take new discoveries and make them work for you. Unfortunately, sometimes these new discoveries end up being misused by the greedy, which has caused an odd duality in the relationship between homins and science: On the one hand it’s their best friend forever, but on the other it’s a terrifying potential enemy.
On the negative side of the coin, homins (mainly humans, trolls, and goblins) tend to be very susceptible to mob mentality. This is especially true when they feel threatened by or angry at someone or something. Whether the target is legitimately to blame for the crowd’s breached sense of security matters not, just that there is a tangible person or thing to be punished or destroyed to alleviate the problem. After all, homins are beings which are generally always on the look-out for a quick fix to any and every dilemma they find themselves facing…consequences be damned. These angry mobs can easily turn violent at the drop of a hat and are to be handled with the utmost caution.
Group 2: Fae
The fae are a large and varied group of beings ranging from the typical fairies, sprites, pixies, brownies, and Tolkein/Dungeons and Dragons-style elves and dark elves (or drowa) to beings that one would not usually think of as fair folk—such as elementals, succubi/incubi, demons, and the angel-like seraphs. The fae are to magic what the homins are to science—the cutting-edge innovators, inventors of new spells and branches of magic. This is because the fae have a deep and intimate connection with the ebb and flow of the very forces of magic themselves.
Different fae races are tied to different kinds of magic and have different types of magical talents. For instance, brownies are positively geniuses when it comes to spells geared toward cleaning and repairing things, but powerful elemental and transformative spells are far beyond their reach. Likewise, demons are amazingly powerful when it comes to offensive magic and laying curses on people, but they are rather weak in terms of healing magic and spells which help plants grow.
Among the fae, the elves have always been humanity’s closest friends and allies. During the War of Destruction, the elves retreated into seclusion due to their disappointment with the actions of their human friends and their unwillingness to take up arms in such a misguided conflict. They remained in hiding for approximately nine hundred years. At that point the king of the elves—seeing his people fed up with being unable to build machines capable of handling the amazing new power source which they had invented (magicels) and the humans struggling to find a better power source for the amazing new machines which they had invented (the industrial revolution had been picking up steam with coal and oil as the power source behind it for about one hundred and fifty to two hundred years at that point)—realized that this long separation had negatively impacted the advancement of both races and officially renewed the partnership between human and elf kind.
Group 3: Manbeasts
The manbeast races are an eclectic group of beings. While some (like the centaurs and satyrs) look a bit like some random assemblage of mix-and-match human and animal parts from the gods’ bits box, others (like the bearmen, lizardmen, and norgels) seem more like anthropomorphic animals or inhabitants of the island of Dr. Moreau…or, if you like, extras from an episode of Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. They come in a variety of sizes and forms (a few can even shape shift to a certain extent) and their magical abilities range anywhere between slightly better than the average human to nearly non-existent, but they all share one very important trait: All manbeasts—from the enormous, eight foot tall minotaurs to the pint-sized, four foot norgels—are at least fifty percent stronger and faster than the average human.
Manbeasts prefer simple lifestyles which involve living close to the land. For most of the manbeast races, this means the hunter-gatherer or nomadic herder approach. However, there are a few races for whom this means subsistence farming as well. Due to this—and the fact that the manbeast races are not given to pioneering new magics or technologies or building grand cities and enormous castles—there is an ugly stereotype floating about that all manbeasts are stupid, lazy savages. However, the manbeast races possess the exact same intellectual capabilities of fae and homins and can be quite legally and politically sophisticated when the need arises.
Case in point; as industrialization and new technologies have spread across the earth, governments and large corporations have taken to grabbing up “unclaimed lands” (those not formally owned by anyone in particular and devoid of temperamental and territorial nature sprites) for the development of factories, mines, suburban housing, landfills, etc. However, every time that they’ve tried to snap up an “unclaimed” patch of land which just happens to be part of the traditional migration route of some tribe of nomadic manbeasts, however, they’ve ended up having to fight a long and protracted legal battle over it. A fairly recent lawsuit involved a large harpy clan versus one kingdom’s Department of Land Management and a powerful mining corporation over the ownership rights to the mountain which has served as their clan’s winter roost for nearly twelve hundred years. The case stretched on for nearly three years in court and finally ended not only in victory for the clan, but also a six hundred million krown settlement in their favor. Not too shabby, eh?
Group 4: Fae-beasts
Like manbeasts, fae-beasts are an eclectic group consisting of many very different looking races of beings. Some are bestial quadrupeds in their true form (such as dragons, velvends, sphinxes, and gryphons), while others look like anthropomorphic animals (such as the kappa) or human-animal-mix-and-matches (such as naga and merfolk). What sets them apart from manbeasts is that they are extremely magical beings and the vast majority of them either have some innate shapeshifting ability or are capable of using their powerful magic to change forms as needed.
Those fae-beasts capable of shapeshifting through pure natural ability are not able to take on a pure human form, however. Instead, whenever they take on a human-like form, there is always some tell as to what they truly are. For instance, pure-blooded velvends always have long, furry, elf-like ears; all three of their tails; blue hair; and bright red eyes whenever they change to their humanoid form. In others beings, the tell may be much more subtle—such as having unusually sharp canine teeth or oddly long fingers. Only through the use of a powerful spell of glamour may a fae-beast ever achieve a perfect human shape.
Group 5: Shapeshifters
Shapeshifters are an odd group. They possess the ability to change between a perfect human, a perfect animal, and a manbeast form…and then are able to access multiple possible forms which lie between those forms. Of all groups of beings capable of any level of shapeshifting, the shapeshifters have the most refined transformative abilities…if they actually bother to hone them.
However, being able to change forms is not the only thing which sets these beings apart; it is their ability to change humans into what they are which truly makes them stand out. Be it through a complex and perilous process involving near-death experiences and blood transfusions (such as with the vampires), transference of deep magic through the spilling of blood (such as with werewolves and other werebeasts), or the sharing of one’s flesh with another (windigoes), it makes no difference. Among responsible, respectable shapeshifters, changing a human against his/her will is generally frowned upon unless it was an absolute emergency…but that does not mean that there aren’t a few out there who actively go around doing just that.
In addition to their shapeshifting talents and their ability to transform humans, shapeshifters also possess the quickest healing and strongest immune systems of all six groups aside from the monster races. Werebeasts are well known for having a healing factor which allows them to recover in mere minutes from injuries which would take a human weeks to heal and vampires never get sick, no matter who they feed from, due to their bodies’ impenetrable defenses. The only substance capable of negating a shapeshifter’s amazing healing abilities is silver—which not only negates a shapeshifter’s healing abilities when they are injured with it, but is also impervious to their powers as well, making it an ideal material for werewolf-proof armors and restraints.
Group 6: The Monster Races
There are many kinds of monsters in this world, the vast majority of them being animal-like in nature. However, there are six species of monsters which possess intelligence and cognitive abilities on par with humans or elves. These six species—the gorgons, the tentacle monsters, the bogies, the lurk, the kobal, and the zathrans—are known collectively as the monster races.
The six monster races vary greatly in abilities and lifestyles, but the one thing that links them together is that they are all literally monsters. This doesn’t mean that they are all inherently evil, just that they belong on the same branch of the tree of life as less intelligent monsters such as slimes or cockatrices. In fact, lurk and kobal are actually very personable beings and for centuries before the War of Destruction, zathrans lived side by side with humans.
After the War of Destruction, the zathrans mysteriously lost the key to maintaining their higher intelligence after puberty—their special coming of age ritual. The history books fail to say exactly what happened to that knowledge, however there is a theory going around that all books containing it were deliberately either burned or damaged and most (if not all) adult zathrans were slaughtered by the Templars. Whether that rumor is true or not, the fact remains that the loss of that all-important ritual has doomed every zathran to completely lose their humanity as they grow into their monster powers, a tragic experience for both the young zathran and all who love and care for him.
Well, that covers the dirt basics. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little overview and will tune in next week when I explain magicels—how they’re made, how they work, and how they’re used to power the technologies of Wolfsbane’s world. If you didn’t enjoy it…well, I’m sorry that I bored/annoyed you and I hope you’ll still come around next week to see if I do a better job then. Until next Sunday, this is Danielle Freeman, signing off. ^_^