From shadow, light
Do not squander anger on the viper, for the viper was always going to strike. Instead, channel that anger within yourself.
Gopaj Vreshnu, Noctern elder, 3004 AoR
Kalsang, Legshey, Sonam, Karma, Padma
Bhakto, Choden, Rinchen, Yangdon, Dolkar
Jinpa, Jorden, Krendal, Tansin, Bhutin
Omia, Mahrooz, Vazirov, Zaurgil, Abbasova, Baghirova, Aslanova, Hasanova, Salehlı, Cemilli
Major language groups and dialects
Common Etiquette rules
So long as it is clear that you are trying not to offend the Noctern, it is pretty much impossible to offend the Noctern.
Anolina Anolinia, Morvatian translator, 2221 AoR
Art & Architecture
Birth & Baptismal Rites
Funerary and Memorial customs
The distinct qualities of the Ontorseia mean that there are millions of deceased Nocterns resting peacefully in the deepest underground regions of the world. These individuals do not last forever. Even in the preservative and protective confines of those mysterious waters, bodies do have a tendency to disintegrate - very slowly - over millennia. But a corpse deposited in these waters will probably remain recognizable for well over a thousand years. And it won't completely disappear for a couple thousand more.
Common Myths and Legends
- Nocterns see perfectly in the dark and can operate in the complete absence of light.
Noctern eyes require light to see, just like any other human. It is true that Nocterns have a demonstrated ability to see far better than most humans when in the presence of faint light sources. But they cannot see anything in pure blackness. And even though they can see better than other races in faint light, the quality is still tied to the quality of the light. So a Noctern viewing something in medium light will still be able to discern more detail than something viewed in scant light. In fact, the Nocterns' proclivity for sight amongst poor lighting can actually be a hindrance for them. When a "normally-sighted" person has adjusted to low-lighting, they can be temporarily blinded when confronted with sudden, bright light. When Nocterns have adjusted to the extremely-poor lighting conditions typical in the Ontorlands, a sudden, bright light will effectively blind them for much longer as they struggle to adapt to the new conditions.
- Nocterns have fangs.
Noctern dentition is no different than that of other humans.
- Nocterns rise up through snyres and feed on humans at night.
As silly as this legend is, it's at least somewhat understandable how it arose. Some Noctern societies do range above ground, at night, to hunt surface prey. And when they do so, their portals to the surface are almost always snyres. But there has never been a single verified instance of a Noctern hunting or eating another human. However, there are creatures that rise out of the snyres at night and hunt humans, typically dragging them back to the Ontorlands for later consumption. But it's just lazy and racist to conflate such creatures with Nocterns.
- Nocterns glow in the dark.
Nearly all Nocterns have some kind of luminescent quality about them. But as outlined above, this is not due to any traits inherent to their ethnicity. Rather, it is driven by their diet. Any oplander would acquire the same physical trait if they ate as most Nocterns do. Conversely, Nocterns would not have this trait if they switched to an oplander diet.
- Nocterns are lazy, untrustworthy, uneducated, underhanded people.
Living in an underworld environment in no way equates to having underhanded characteristics. This has not stopped most oplander societies from painting the Noctern people with every disreputable brush they can find. It's hard to identify any undesirable human trait that hasn't, at some time, been applied, in a blanket manner, to all Nocterns. Similarly, it's difficult to identify any of these broad aspersions that have had even a tiny basis in reality. Some of the accusations are so blatantly inaccurate that they would be almost comical - if they didn't represent bigoted views used to foster hatred and unfounded distrust. For example, Nocterns are commonly depicted by oplanders as slow, simple, and dimwitted. In other words, the people being accused of stupidity are the same ones who usually speak more languages than their accusers. These same bigots will claim that the Nocterns have no real culture to speak of, and are nothing but a ragged band of savages who have taken to the caves because they are somehow less than human. But those bigoted claims almost always come from those who don't even speak Nokmeni and have never attempted to read it. If they did, they would realize that the Nocterns have an impressive history in the arts - from literature, to painting, to sculpture, to dance, to theatre. Nevertheless, whenever another society feels the need to rally its people by accusing someone else of any undesirable trait, Nocterns have invariably filled that role.
- Nocterns are a violent, warlike people who will double-cross anyone to achieve their goals.
Nocterns are essentially insular and wary of outside contact. They will go to great lengths to keep distance between themselves and other cultures. But this in no way implies that they are pacifist. And when confronted with oplander aggression, they have a long and proud history of defending themselves and protecting what is theirs. While this stance is completely understandable - indeed, honorable - it has, unfortunately, led to a repeated pattern in Noctern-oplander narratives:
- An oplander initiates some kind of unprovoked or unjustified violence against the Nocterns.
- The Nocterns respond with righteous and devastating force.
- The oplander yells, to anyone who will listen, "See!! I tried to tell you! They're a bunch of violent savages!"
Rinse, wash, repeat...
- An oplander strikes some kind of deal with the Nocterns.
- Shortly thereafter, the oplander reneges upon the agreed-upon deal.
- Seeing that they've been cheated and that the deal is, logically, no longer in effect, the Nocterns stop complying with their end of the (already broken) pact.
- The oplander yells, to anyone who will listen, "See!! I tried to tell you! They won't stay true to their word! They can't be trusted!"
- Nocterns keep their dead in suspended animation, and believe that they can commune with them.
This tradition is the one that most oplanders find to be unsettling - and it's basically true. Deep within the Ontorlands, vast lakes have been found where no light propagates, no plants (not even moss or fungi) thrive, and the waters themselves have strange preservative properties. These Ontorseia outlets are so far down that even Nocterns must carry light sources with them to avoid becoming hopelessly lost in the black abyss. For millennia, the Nocterns have not buried their dead. ("Burying" is basically a foreign and nonsensical concept to them - because they already spend most of their lives underground.) Neither do they burn the dead, because flame - and thus, smoke - is a dangerous beast when one lives in a series of caverns that can be, for all essential purposes, sealed. So, ages ago, the Noctern began depositing their dead in these deep-and-ancient caverns. And the preservative waters in these near-mystical pools have kept some of their ancestors' bodies in a suspended state for hundreds - and even thousands - of years. Perhaps it's inevitable, then, that Nocterns see it as a sacred rite to descend to these same pools and talk with their departed loved ones. Or to "commune" with their long-dead ancestors. Where this story slides into myth and ignorance is in the suggestion that Nocterns see this preservation as "suspended animation" or that they truly believe they can talk to their deceased. They understand, fully-well, that the bodies of their loved ones are preserved - but that those same loved ones are very much dead and are never coming back. And they "commune" with those ancestors in the same way that an oplander may stand next to the tomb of a dead family member and "talk" to them. No Noctern, aside from those afflicted with mental illness, has ever returned from these sacred pools having believed that they truly had a living, breathing conversation with any of the bodies that float serenely in the darkness. Nevertheless, many oplanders have seized upon these stories to frame the Nocterns as necromancers dabbling in the black arts.
- Nocterns entrance oplanders with their hypnotic songs.
This silly legend stems from the well-documented Nocternal love of song. Although they don't perceive their own language as song, it hits many oplander ears as musical. But beyond this, they are enthusiastic singers, and a Nocternal chorus can easily be more than a hundred strong. In some instances, these choruses are conducted at-or-near snyres. And when that happens, their beautiful-yet-eerie tones echo throughout the surface forests. In other instances, even when they haven't organized near a snyre, the acoustics of a particular stretch of Ontorlands tunnels can amplify the sound into the nearest forest exits. The echoing, hypnotic, ethereal sound of their voices has been characterized as atmospheric and mesmerizing. But the trance induced by the beautiful sound of Nocternal singing is no more ensnaring than the "trance" one experiences when walking past a particularly-skilled street musician. The idea that the Nocterns have any "magical" powers to ensnare oplanders is, quite frankly, absurd and entirely without evidence.
- Nocterns are not casterways.
(almost certainly) FALSE
No one - not even the Nocterns themselves, know exactly how or when Noctern society first coalesced. With that in mind, there is no one who can definitively prove that the apocryphal "first" Noctern was, indeed, a casterway. But saying that the Nocterns descended from some... "other" population that was not, in any way, casterway, is no different than claiming that a given population descended from gods, or wolves, or three-headed aliens. It's not, technically, impossible. But there's also no scientific reason to believe that it's true. To be clearer, there is not a single shred of historical evidence to support the idea that Nocterns are anything but casterways. But the "They're not casterways!" narrative has been powerful throughout history. For those tempted to make diplomatic ties with the Nocterns, it has proven easy to undermine those efforts by screaming (to anyone who would listen) that, "They're not casterways!" Unfortunately, it hasn't much mattered whether there is any evidence to support this specious claim. They look different. They live in different environments. So, once the civic leaders take up the (flawed) narrative that they're not really casterways, it becomes difficult - if not impossible - for their supporters to justify maintaining those diplomatic ties. Thus, aligning oneself with the Nocterns can be an expedient path to one's own political ostracizing.
- Nocterns create snyres
Although snyres are not associated with the same destructive force of, say, a razer, they still have the potential to cause massive damage. In a few isolated instances, they have even changed the course of world history. For this reason, they are viewed, by some, with fear and awe. Given that a snyre is often an underground cavern run amok, and the Nocterns are the most tangible human population associated with underground caverns, it was probably inevitable that some would come to connect the (specious) dots between the Nocterns and snyres. Over millennia, the Nocterns have certainly become highly skilled at underground engineering. And if they felt fit to collapse a few already-weakened sections of forest floor, it's hard to argue that they couldn't pull it off. But there are many thousands of snyres across all of Excilior's continents. The idea that Nocterns are responsible for all - or even, most - of these natural phenomena is patently absurd. There are a handful of targeted scenarios throughout history where oplanders were overtly attacking the subterranean population and that same population found a way to weaken strategic areas of the forest floor in self defense. But it is a great (and illogical) leap to move from "Nocterns strategically hastened the formation of a few snyres throughout history" to "Nocterns are responsible for all (or even most) snyres."
- Nocterns change their skin color like chameleons.
It's actually understandable how this legend came to be. Noctern skin, being incredibly pale, serves as an effectively-neutral base upon which all sorts of other pigments can be applied. Many of the planet's best pigments originate from the fungi, mosses, and algae that propagate in the Ontorlands. Over millennia, Nocterns have elevated camouflage and body-painting to an art form. Given knowledge of their target environment, and enough time to prepare, they are masters at crafting skin coverings that can render them nearly invisible in the right environment. They have also been known to apply false tanning agents during those rare circumstances when they actually desire to move amongst oplander society. Their most spectacular work is not when they are attempting subterfuge, but rather when they are deploying body paint purely for the sake of art. However, none of these amazing skills are inherent in their DNA. Nor can they deploy them, at will, as a chameleon might. Noctern body painting is a carefully-constructed and time-consuming endeavor that cannot be done on the fly.
- Nocterns are nocturnal.
This is one of the most surprising revelations to oplanders. They frequently make lazy associations that, A) Nocterns spend much of their life living in the darkness of the Ontorlands therefore, and B) we associate darkness with nighttime, so thus C) they must be nocturnal. Indeed, the oplander term Noctern is deliberately a short leap from nocturnal. Nocterns are perfectly aware of this faulty association and they don't appreciate it in the slightest, because nocturnal often means more than just "is awake at night". It is often used to infer "evil or underworld beings creeping through the night". Yet most Nocterns maintain a daily cycle that puts them in line with diurnal rhythms. Exactly how they do this isn't entirely understood. Even while deep below the surface, Nocterns will often say things like, "It smells like dusk is approaching." Or, "It is a midday air." The mistaken oplander legends are sometimes exacerbated by Nocternal hunting patterns. When they go above ground seeking game, they are often spotted around the snyres at dawn or dusk. Those time periods are significant because the hunting is often best in the twilight hours. But when they rise from the snyres at dusk, they will typically return with their catch well-before midnight and go to sleep. If they are seen around the snyres around dawn, it's only because they arose shortly before sunlight, fulfilled the morning's hunting, and returned shortly after full sunrise. But to oplanders who aren't paying careful attention, it's easy to assume that the Nocterns rose from the snyres at dusk, were out all night, and only returned after the sun rose into the sky the next morning.
The oplanders want nothing to do with me because I reek of Nokkmeun. The Nokkmeun want nothing to do with me because I reek of them.
Vatsa Madhokar, Noctern youth, 2207 AoR
- Short in stature
- Broad facial features
- Exceedingly pale
- Coal-black eyes
- A gentle, phosphorescent glow
- White-or-fair hair
- Generally hairless, other than the top of the head and the eyebrows
- Aquiline facial features
- Darker pigmentation
- As much white in the eyes as possible
- Little-or-no glow
- Darker hair
- Hairy - especially in areas other than the top of the head and the eyebrows