Xholx

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Almost immediately after my feet touched the island, a woman welcomed me with a hug, as if she had long awaited my arrival. I would later learn that foreign merchants such as myself are seen as omens of good portent.
— A Rektouzk trader
  Who could be happier than those who live now within what was once mere legend to them? The Xholx have arrived at the end of a cross-generational journey, and enjoy the riches of their newfound home, Noktyoul. Their origination from the badlands of Lqet, and current isolation upon the Youti islands has allowed their culture to grow and thrive in directions often at odds with their neighbors.  

Shining Skin

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The first, and most striking thing one may note upon first meeting a Xholx is their hairless skin, which appears as somewhat milky amber— the reflective, slightly transparent surface of which reflects the sunlight brilliantly. This skin is rougher, milkier, and opaque at their joints, such as the elbows, knees, and neck. Despite its appearance, however, Xholx skin feels just the same as any other commonly found on humans when touched.   This grants them through unknown means an increased resistance to alchemy. Contrasting their lower arms, Xholx possess extraordinarily thin upper arms— which appear to house little to no muscle at all. However, in truth, the structure of their humeri has several pits and grooves that house musculature, allowing them to stand up to their contemporaries. Upon their foreheads lie round diamond-like depressions, which are typically 1" deep and 1" in diameter for women, or 2" in diameter for men. On the opposite end, strong, bone-like growths on the bottoms of their feet allow them to traverse rough terrain for longer periods, with minimal injury. This brings them to stand around 5'5"-5'8".  

A Waiting Storm

Related Organizations

Naming

While many Xholx do speak Qetlec, most speak a blend of Qetlec and their own— unfortunately forgotten— language. This has led to the creation of the wildly divergent dialect known as Youtilec.   It is presumed that their naming traditions are carried from their past, given that they are entirely unlike those utilized by most Qetlec-speaking groups.   Names are tied to signs seen during a child's birth, objects, movements, sounds— all can become part of a name. Typically, three of these are used to create a portmanteau which is then used as the child's name.   Ex. The wind (youghet) blows steadily, a cat cries (tixhek) in the distance, and a bowl (xhoght) is knocked off the table— the child is named Yoheght.  

Taboos

To fabricate an omen or prophecy is a bad omen itself— one who does such a thing has terrible misfortune in store for them.   Misfortune that is fast approaching— be it be chance, or by those who catch them lying.
The history of the Xholx and their home country of Noktyoul are inseparable. The nation's very founding was the result of their culture— which places great importance on omens and prophecies. After generations spent wandering the arid badlands of Lqet, tribal warfare, and suffering— a great gift came to their people. The Seven Worms, who would prophecize their arrival in a promised land. A land that would free them from the trials and tribulations of their nomadic lifestyle, as well as deliver them from their enemies once and for all. That land would one day be found upon the Youti Islands. Unfortunately, these islands were already occupied— the grand metal structures upon them towering over the migrants— almost as a foreboding warning.   A warning they did not heed, finding shortly thereafter that the islands' previous occupants were lacking in military strength. Most Xholx today believe all of the former occupants to be dead, though strange howling from a seemingly bottomless pit found in their capital seems to suggest otherwise.      

Tradition & Values

If one keeps their eyes and ears open at all times, they may find omens and prophecies in unexpected places— guiding them along the best course.
— A Xholx Scholar
 
Omens and prophecies are held with great reverence in Xholx culture. They are not to be joked about, and false ones are punished harshly. Just about anything can be interpreted as an omen— from the shapes of the clouds above, to the song of an uncommon bird. Many of the Xholx keep themselves keenly aware of their surroundings as a result, always looking for guidance. This is not to say that they are easily mislead— as many seem to possess uncanny insight as to whether or not an omen is fabricated. In fact, more often than not, these omens do tend to ring true.   Prophecies are much less common, typically coming from translated ancient texts or well regarded sages. As a result, these are held with greater respect. Ancient knowledge is held in similarly high regard, and many Xholx are well-studied in the ancient words of those who previously occupied their current home. Through the ancients' vast collection of knowledge, they believe, they can better themselves and the world around them.

Greetings & Farewells

To greet one another, the Xholx will place the side of a flattened hand against their chest, palm facing upwards, and bow lightly.   Farewells are performed similarly, with the palm turned downwards.
 

Milestones

Birth

Omens will tell of the day a child will be born, however— these are not always accurate. If a child is not born upon the foretold day— that, in and of itself, is a bad omen. Such children are believed to be destined to commit evil, or endure a life of great suffering. With this common belief in mind, many parents will choose to preemptively spare the child by ending its life. Others may abandon the child, and fewer still will choose to raise them.   Other omens spotted around the time of the child's birth can foretell their future, what sort of person they may become, or what they may encounter. Most parents will keep these from their children. However, it is not entirely uncommon for one or two of these omens to be shared with the child in the future— especially once what was foretold has come to pass.

Coming of age

Unlike most of their contemporaries, the Xholx do not have a common age which they see as passing the threshold into adulthood. Instead, they wait for a particular omen— the occurrence of which will tell them when a child will become an adult. Sometimes, the omen may tell them that the child already has— though typically it tells of a time yet to come.  

Death

Loved ones of the departed will write of their history, things they enjoyed, and what they will miss upon great sheets of paper. These sheets are then wrapped tightly around the body, soaked in flower-scented oil, and set aflame. These events are typically open-air, as it is believed that one can discern a message from the departed by interpreting how the ashes fly away in the wind.
 

Eating

Worms or maggots present in one's food must be given a few moments to feast, before one may begin to eat, themselves.   It is believed that by consuming these creatures, one may gain knowledge— or be better suited for learning new things.
 

War

Know who you face— do not leave room for unknowns. A soldier who knows what to expect cannot be felled by surprise.
— A Xholx general
Most soldiers will spend time researching their foes before heading into battle. What are their common tactics? What do they wield? Any information prepares the warrior. After battle, survivors undergo ritualistic bloodletting— which is believed to relieve oneself of the adrenaline, anger, and sorrow that so often accompany battles.
 

Ideals, Love, & Gender

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Relationships

During the hardships previously faced by the Xholx, they had little time to quarrel over who joined hands with who. Seeking relief from the reality they found themselves in however one saw fit could not be faulted, and this attitude remains today. There is no marriage in Xholx culture, rather, there is simple holg, or bonding. This denotes that two persons have become close, and have a shared affinity for one another.   Anyone can become bonded to anyone else, so long as both parties accept. A strip of woven cloth is worn around the lower arm for each bond one may hold, the patterns of which represent something important to each party.  

Beauty

Men and women both commonly don black eyeliner, believing that one becomes more alive by accentuating their eyes in this manner. Within their forehead-depressions, many will place precious gems, stones, or similar ornaments. It is considered almost rude to leave one's depression unfilled in public, even. For the wealthy, pseudo-necklaces are hung from rings pierced into their necks— mimicking the great worms hanging from the necks of their leaders.  

Gender

Women are seen as stronger than men, and while Xholx culture is not entirely matriarchal— there is a proclivity to trust women in roles of leadership as opposed to men. Ultimately, men and women still enjoy most of the same rights— with the exception that only women are permitted to enter certain ruins left upon the islands.  

Art, Architecture, & Dress

Architecture

Many of the edifices occupied by Xholx today are those constructed by the previous occupants of their islands, it is not too common for new structures to be built. Even the interiors of the ancient, yellow-tinted metal structures are left mostly as they were hundreds of years ago, the only major change being reed or fur mats placed upon the floors for sleeping on. Even chairs are uncommon, most residents simply use metal cubes found within the ancient abodes as seats, instead.    

Art

Painting and weaving are both essential to the Xholx artist, both are filled with geometric forms mixed alongside those found in the natural world, or depictions of prophecies. Spirals, especially, are frequent patterns— when asked why, even by another Xholx, the answer is usually something akin to "it just happened."   Many Xholx artists practice a sort of painting known as loxhigh or flow— where the artist allows the work to speak for itself, guiding their brush towards what it wishes rather than the artist imposing their own will upon the brush. Loxhigh works can often become omens, and as such, hold great value within Xholx culture.

Dress

Men wear split robes, with wide fabric loops raised 3-4" over the shoulder that taper down at the waist. Between these loops, there is no fabric— so that their chests and abdomens are uncovered. Along the outer sides and below the waist, however, rests a thinner fabric, which is typically of a cream color.   The loops themselves are often some shade of brown, with more vibrant colors such as greens, reds, or purples reserved for nobility. Women wear similar robes, except in the reverse— the loops start at the knees, and taper at the waist. The thinner fabric is then fastened over the neck with a simple knot.
 

Religion & Myth

Most Xholx believe that the worms affixed to their leaders' necks are gifts from the heavens, and revere similar creatures, such as worms, maggots, and other fleshy insects. Maggots are a common ingredient in various Xholx foods, as it is believed that one can gain strength and knowledge by consuming them. Similarly, many value knowledge— especially that from ages long past, and work with almost religious fervor to decipher ancient texts.  

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Cover image: by Garrett Lewis (Timepool)

Comments

Author's Notes

Feedback is very much welcome! Whether on the content, or the formatting! Please, point out typos if you spot any!


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Grandmaster Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
8 Oct, 2020 18:33

This is a really fascinating culture. I love all the little details, especially the one about letting maggots in your food eat for a bit before you do and the superstitions surrounding birth.   You're missing a capital letter at the beginning of the architecture section, just to let you know. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
8 Oct, 2020 19:03

Thanks for catching the typo!