Touched by the Storm
The natives of Darthonis call themselves "Aapha", which means "the touched ones". Darthonis is a small country in the north of Ivendarea, attached to the landmass, yet separated from the Ivendarean nation by a natural border in the shape of a deadly, everlasting storm of snow and ice. Both "Aapha" and "Darthonians" can be used interchangeably when referring to the people of Darthonis. They use "Aapha" among themselves and in conversation with others more often, while "Darthonian" only when speaking to outsiders about their nationality and country of origin. "Darthonian" is the term more commonly used by foreigners. The Aapha spend the majority of their lives in isolated cities built to a large degree underground, as a means to protect themselves against the cold of their homeland. In Darthonis it is winter for the largest part of the year, and in the heart of the landmass the snow and ice don't even melt during the few weeks of spring and summer. Along the Darthonian coast though it can get warm enough for vegetation to blossom and fruits to grow in the fields - it is a time of celebration and festivities. The Darthonians are known to be hardened sailors, sustaining their small nation considerably through trade with other nations nowadays. Their most-exported raw goods are rare metals from deep within the earth, and they are known to be talented enchanters, smiths, and builders of ships and other sturdy vehicles fast as the wind. Travel between their cities happens predominantly via sleds equipped with sails or drawn by wolfhounds. According to Darthonian legends the lands they now call their home were shaped by the storm in Ivendarea's north. The wind was so cold and so strong one fateful day, it froze the ocean around its eye in its entirety. In the moment the water solidified, a small fleet of ships was caught in its middle - a band of sailors who had left their land of origin. The reasons for their journey and what happened to their homeland vary slightly from tale to tale. But with their ships frozen in place and nowhere to go, they had no choice but to set up camp and try to somehow survive the storm. During the fifth night of their forced stay, the majority of the crew at the brink of death, the spirit of the storm and ice itself appeared in front of them and touched them. Their hair turned white the like the ice and snow, but the cold had suddenly become bearable. Forever changed, but in a now much less dire situation, they managed to survive and founded the first Darthonian settlement, today the capital Lagharda, ever since calling themselves the Aapha.
With an average height of 180 centimetres the Aapha often stand out in a crowd, in addition to their rather unique appearance. With skin-tones generally very pale and translucent they have an almost ethereal aura about them. Their eyes, in contrast, are of unusually vibrant colours, usually red, pink, and purple tones. The Aapha are known to see well in the dark, adapted to life underground and the long dark winters of Darthonis. Most also have pale hair colours going along with their bright skin. Even younger individuals might have white or silver hair, more commonly seen though are light blond and red tones. In general, the Aapha have a rather androgynous appearance and also have no overly strict differentiation between gender roles.
Genetics and Reproduction
Most Aapha families have 3-5 children on average, and their family ties and relations are spread as far as their nation's cities lie apart. People tend to have more children to marry them off to several other cities, to strengthen relationships, but also avoid inter-marrying within one's own family, as the cities are quite isolated. Since the Aapha are androgynous in appearance, they show off their relationship statues, family ties, social role and rank, and other clues about their personality through facial markings painted or tattooed on. This helps not only with forging and showing off allegiances, but is a major part of Darthonis' social life. Aapha are capable of reproducing with Nyr, Assadin, and Kitu, but such unions and resulting children are rare, particularly with the Assadin and Kitu. Children of such mixed heritage usually show characteristics of both parents, usually taking a bit more after the Darthonian side than the other in the case of unions with the Assadin and Kitu, while children of Aapha and Nyr often show more of the Nyr parent's appearance.
Ecology and Habitats
The Aapha are adapted to one of the most hostile environments of the world: an icy wasteland haunted by deadly blizzards and supernatural creatures. The Darthonian cities are far spread and tightly-knit, but manage to stick together as a nation through means of magical long-distance communication. While journeys between the cities are necessary throughout the year and carried out on a regular basis, they are risky and can end deadly on many occasions. Most people therefore choose to travel or visit family during the summer, when the storms calm down and the coastal cities blossom. The Aapha are at home in cold and ice, their skin burning easily when exposed to the sun for too long, and getting uncomfortable in warmer climates, which is why the majority of the Ivendarean Aapha live in the north of the nation and wear protective veils covering their faces elsewhere.
A typical Aapha's lifespan encompasses about 350 years, although some individuals can reach ages above 400 as well. Infancy lasts about 5 years, followed by a relatively short childhood, and with the age of 30 years Aapha are considered adults, with all rights and duties attached. The Aapha's fertility begins to decrease at an age of 300 years, but sometimes even individuals older than that can still have children. Aging in general is a slow, drawn out process, and first signs of age usually already begin to show at 60-100 years of age.
Each of the Darthonian's insular communities is led by a so-called Konar, a wise seer and spiritual leader. The Konar determines a city-state's fate and influences daily life and decisions to a great degree, and their life is fully dedicated to their task - they have no family of their own, as all citizens of the community are considered their children and their responsibility. The Konar of all cities are in constant communication with each other and the spirit of the lands. They hold the nation together - but they aren't the government as such. Below the Konar, who is a religious, spiritual leader, stands a city's worldly ruler, the Dalak. They have the status of a high-ranking monarch and usually stem from a long dynasty of rulers. When a Konar steps down or dies, their successor is usually chosen from one of current Dalak's children. Therstina, partner of king Leoros of Ivendarea, is the youngest child of the Dalak of Lagharda. Despite the Aapha's cities being far apart from each other, they are tightly connected through the Konar and the Dalak, who marry their children with each other to strengthen the nation's bonds. There is actually no one distinct ruler at the head of the nation, although the Dalak of the capital of Lagharda is by many considered the most prestigious and respected position. In the whole nation there is always a slight competition for influence, dominance, and wealth among the city states in terms of who can best represent the nation and its values to the outside world.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
The Aapha almost exclusively live in their home nation of Darthonis, an environment that seems impossible to live in for outsiders, but which they love and feel closely connected to on a spiritual level. Since the beginning of the trade relations with the Nyr, a decent amount of Darthonians has also begun to settle down in Ivendarea, particularly near the border region, such as the cities of Canwyl and Westpoint. Another influx of settlers arrived only a few decades ago when king Leoros married princess Therstina; the first political marriage ever between Darthonis and Ivendarea.
The Darthonians are considered smart inventors and crafty survivors with revolutionary architecture and farming techniques that allows for surviving in a world of ice. They also are famous for being skilled sailors, building some of the fastest ships. Their wise elders are powerful mages, but not all Aapha are magically inclined.
Civilization and Culture
The Aapha carry a family name along with their given name. When they get married one of the partners has to give up their family name and take the other's - usually, when a person comes from another city to marry into the family they give up their old family name. But exceptions now and then are possible, particularly when the person marrying into their new family carries a particularly influential or old family name. Aapha given names are highly poetical and prophetic, chosen depending on the day they are born; noble families will often ask the Konar for guidance and advice in naming a child, commoners can consult a variety of books and scrolls with tables upon tables of suitable names to pick from. Picking a child's name is neither an easy nor a quick process, and it begins as soon as the approximate date of birth has been calculated - at the latest on the child's first birthday though a name has to be given to them. Sometimes Aapha can have two given names: their fate name, picked by parents and spiritual guides, which is mandatory and legally binding. In cases though where it is a very long or highly abstract word, they can choose to also carry a so-called mundane name, which doesn't even necessarily have to be of Darthonian origin. The mundane name is used in daily life by relatives and close friends, the fate name for official documents and ceremonies Therstina for example was born the 7th child to her family in the depth of winter. Her name means "herald of the first light", which was the Konar's recommended choice after conversing with the spirits. Therstina's parents at first considered it meant that the harsh winter she was born in would soon end. Today though her name is said to have prophesied her marriage with Leoros, heralding a new prosperous era between their nations. When she was younger, Therstina was usually called by her mundane name "Sina", which is just a simplified, more lighthearted version of the very heavy and serious sounding "Therstina". With her social status of being the partner of the Ivendarean king it would be insulting for anyone but her husband or close relatives to call her "Sina" now, and even then only in private, never during public events.
Tall, strong bodies are considered the most beautiful, as are elaborate hairstyles that showcase craftsmanship, pride of one's heritage, spirituality, creativity, commitment, and the wealth to maintain them.
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
The Aapha and the NyrThe neighboring nations and their peoples have a long shared history. Both only knowing a life of isolation were surprised to find each others' homelands side by side, yet divided by a sheer insurmountable wall of snow and ice. The first contact was therefore only established via the ocean, the skilled Darthonian sailors landing on Ivendarea's western shores, beginning a trade relationship as well as sharing knowledge and technology. Their relationship was not always free of obstacles, but never characterized or damaged by violent acts. One sore spot always remained the Nyr's refusal of engaging in politically motivated marriages. While they are common in Darthonis, arranged relationships are very rare and sometimes even looked down upon among the Nyr. Overall though this was only a small disagreement the nations had, and it only was brought up again recently with the marriage of king Leoros and Therstina of Lagharda, stirring up tension and negative feelings on both sides of the borders in various communities.
The Aapha and the AssadinThe Aapha weren't pleased at all by the Assadin's invasion of Ivendarea, fearing that their campaign for expansion would eventually hit Darthonis, too. The Darthonians would have faced the same problems as the Nyr, having no highly trained military available that could have withstood the attack of the foreign forces. Things came differently though, and peace returned to Ivendarea eventually, with no Assadin intents of taking over Darthonis for the time being. Over the course of the next few centuries of Assadin rule in the south, only a handful of kings started off arguments over borders and territories, but given the fact that there is nothing of value in the icy border region - and it is impossible to cross it via the land anyway - it was not something worth waging war over. Finally, the Assadin agreed to what the Nyr had always refused: a marriage to strengthen the alliance between their nations and work on a future together. It was not a choice taken lightheartedly, considering the fact that Ivendarea's government had been targeted by rebel attacks over and over again in the recent years and was recovering still from the effects of the last civil war. Both sides hoped though, for different reasons, that strengthening the alliance would lead to prosperity - and, in the case of further attacks, the Darthonians would be more willing to help fight the rebels back.
The Aapha and the KituThe Aapha and the Kitu are on neutral terms, both seeing themselves as guests-turned-locals among those who live in Ivendarea, but outside of Ivendarea they have little contact or dealings with each other.
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