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Qoatl

Born in the wild jungles of southern Sur'Dhanza, the Qoatl people were favorites of Vespis, the Elemental Goddess of the Winds and Skies. They lived alongside the ancient Arren and beings known to history as the Cucarach, but as their dealings soured with time, they sought out their patron deity with prayers for a means of escape. She provided a means, though it was not without its cost in time, effort, materials, and even lives. With the instruction of the goddess, they learned to sculpt clouds into solid matter that nevertheless retained its weightless properties and could be further enchanted to lift additional weight beyond. Through this arcane art, they built the grand city of Xcetz and left any claim to the solid ground behind them forever.
 
With an entire city drifting on the winds and able to access just about any point of the known world, the Qoatl quickly cemented themselves as the focal point of diplomacy and trade across the planet, gathering and propagating wealth and knowledge from across the shattered globe. The pinnacle of their efforts in this regard is Tradespeech, a linguistically messy - but convenient - amalgam language that they developed from the disparate grammatical rules and lexicons of the nations they traded with most often several centuries ago. While many criticize the language for its many exceptions to its own rules and its capacity for vaguery compared to some others, it’s had its uses in global trade as it’s given many people a convenient and accepted ‘middle ground’ language to learn in order for trade to take place between two nations without need of more than one interpreter.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Qoatl are winged, four-armed snake-folk. In addition to the scales one would expect to find on snakes, their kind also sports fur and feathers all across the majority of their backs and atop their heads, as well as natural, stony growths on various joints across their bodies and along their spines. They are often compared to serpentine dragons - another of the Elemental Air Goddess Vespis' favored creations - though many who draw this comparison tend to wonder why the Qoatl warranted wings while the dragons did not...
 
Qoatl
Qoatl, Artist's Rendition by Kimberlea Heili
 
Qoatl come in a wide variety of color schemes, including some particularly vivid greens, yellows, and reds, but a fairly common variant tends to be mottled patterns of more neutral colors, as seen on non-sapient boas and pythons and the Drakenath of Mordrekain. Albinism and piebaldism are also remarkably common among the qoatl in comparison to other species as far as these color deficiencies go among sapients, but they are still moderately rare in total, accounting for a rather small percentage of the overall population.
 
Of the Qoatl’s four arms - each of which ends in a hand equipped with three fingers and a thumb - one set of the two will generally be larger than the other by a fair bit. This is often the upper set, which are considered the standard ‘dominant’ set of arms by most of their kind. However, there do exist Qoatl whose lower arms are the larger and more dexterous set, as well as a very rare number of ‘ambidextrous’ Qoatl whose arms are all roughly equivalent in size, strength, and ability.

Genetics and Reproduction

Qoatl females have a gestation time of somewhere between 5-7 months, after which they will lay a clutch of a half dozen eggs or so. These eggs are quite large, as the embryo inside started growing early on in the process, meaning they will hatch only a few weeks to a month. They are expected to be kept in direct sunlight as much as possible during this time, more for religious and cultural reasons than for health ones, as it is temperature that matters more during the final stage of development than anything from the sun that might get through the egg's shell.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Most Qoatl names feature a given name - Spanish in many cases, Nahuatl in most of the rest, and very rarely something borrowed from another culture - followed by a dual family name formed of the combination of both parents placed in order of influence, followed by an indicator of their place of birth. For children born in Xcetz, this last part is generally left off, as it is more or less considered a given, despite the growing population of foreign-born Qoatl who hail from somewhere in the vast network of minor settlements and trade depots they’ve created over the years.

Average Technological Level

Though the Qoatl were fairly light on technology for quite a while after the initial move to their city in the sky - relying much more heavily on magic than machines - their position as merchants and diplomats to the entire known world has put them in a position of unparalleled access to the technology of the other sapient species. Their inventors may lack a cultural foundation for technology of their own to draw from, but as a society, they have no lack of starting points for nearly any modern technological pursuit that might attract their interest.

Major Language Groups and Dialects

The language of the ancient Qoatl - one that is not strictly dead, but has become more of a historical tool than a commonly spoken tongue - is Nahuatl. In recent centuries, having encountered a vast array of disparate languages and steadily developed the amalgamated language of Tradespeech that is spoken in many places worldwide, the Qoatl have begun to mostly speak their own invention. For those seeking something a bit more unique to their own culture, there exists a warped version of their prior tongue that's been warped and blended with the Latin roots they borrowed when first beginning to formulate Tradespeech, becoming something similar to Spanish.

Culture and Cultural Heritage

Qoatl are frequently merchants, diplomats, and archivists by trade, and these trades have taken solid root within their cultural identity. Flying across the world as they do, meeting constantly with other sapients in a way that no other can currently match, they see it as their sworn duty to both catalog everything they can about the cultures they run across, as well as present the best possible impression about their own culture. As a result of the latter, there is a strong emphasis in Qoatl culture on decorum and charisma. Many of their institutes of learning double as ‘finishing schools’ of sorts, where students are taught not only the pleasantries and expected behavior of their own people, but also those from around the world. Entire weeks are spent learning how to be both a good host and a good guest, in order to best represent the values of the qoatl to the various peoples of the world.
 
Qoatl culture is also big on accumulating wealth. Not just physical wealth - though they have that in abundance, in a multitude of currencies - but also knowledge and history. The average trading company sent from the floating capital of Xcetz to the surface will always feature at least scholar among its merchants, diplomats, and accountants. It is the responsibility of these individuals to learn anything they can about the cultures they visit that has not already been recorded in their vast libraries. Some scholar-led groups have even been known to accept worthwhile knowledge as payment in lieu of currency entirely, where such payment is otherwise in short supply.
 
Family is an important concept to the Qoatl as well. From the royal family - all of whom are considered vital to the smooth function of their society - to individual units, the ties between family members and the legacies attached to family names carry a significant amount of weight in Qoatl society. Noble families are often incredibly extensive, frequently intermarrying and having large numbers of children in order to improve their chances of the actions of several individuals further elevating the family name. Poorer families, particularly those who have no reason to believe they will ever escape their current station in life, are usually much smaller, but closer-knit for it. These small families hold the ties that bind them together a bit more dearly than the sprawling trees of their wealthier kin, focusing on collaborative success rather than clinging collectively to the advancements of an individual.
 
Art flourishes in Xcetz, as do most forms of appreciating the natural beauty of the skies around them and the world below. Sculpting in particular is a common skill throughout the Qoatl population, not least because it’s all but necessary when molding cloud-matter into solid structures when expanding the city.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

When a Qoatl dies, their bodies are preserved through a specialized drying process leaving them as little more than skin and bones. Their desiccated form is then entombed in one of a number of floating crypts that orbit the city on their own dedicated clouds. The family of the deceased can visit them in this time if they so choose, but once the city passes over Malephesh’s Tear, the body is ritually prepared in a sort of ‘drop pod’ and released into the great chasm. Their corpse passing through the cloud coverage and into the searing heat of the core beyond is meant to symbolize the passage of the dead qoatl’s soul passing through the veil into the afterlife - something which, in all likelihood, already happened many months prior. Unbeknownst to most Qoatl, a significant number of these dropped corpses have passed through the divine barrier meant to ‘dispose’ of the seawater constantly dumping into the Tear by depositing it in the Demon Realms. As a result, demons have been known to fish encapsulated Qoatl skeletons out of their ring sea from time to time.

Common Taboos

Begging for money, goods, or services is severely looked down upon in qoatl society. For a culture so steeped in capitalism, it is seen as weak or lazy to simply ask that something be given to you rather than to negotiate a trade for what is needed. Both halves of an exchange are considered equal on a social level even if the trade is incredibly uneven in favor of one individual over another from a purely monetary perspective. To be given something without any form of recompense in return is seen as a kind of stealth insult, insinuating the recipient has nothing worth offering, while the provider clearly has wealth to spare.

Historical Figures

  • Elvira Espinosa-Paredes de Yermo - The leader of an expedition into the cloudscapes of Malephesh’s Tear, as well as the crew of settlers who founded Yermo, the first trade depot ever built there. Without her leadership and foresight during its construction, it is believed that the entire settlement would have been wiped away within a year. Both she and her eldest son later lost their lives fending off a Chasm Leviathan attack, but succeeded in wounding the beast badly enough that it has never returned. Some believe she may have been granted demigod status for this act of heroism, but there is no definitive proof of this. In any case, most Tear-based trade depots feature of statue of her and her family to this day.
  • Ramón Varela-Fierro - Originally the proprietor of a humble farmer’s market in the earliest days of Xcetz’s interactions with the Northern hemisphere, he volunteered to speak with the fledgling Underkingdom on behalf of his people. Through a willingness to learn a strange new language and a calm demeanor, Ramón was instrumental in paving the way towards positive relations with not only the Underkingdom, but much of the Northern hemisphere. The family Fierro persists into the modern day, boasting some of the city of Xcetz’s finest diplomats and oraters, as well as several skilled metalsmiths within its branch families.

Lifespan
75 - 110 years
Average Height
2 - 2.5 meters (upright)
Average Length
5-6.5 meters

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Cover image: by Mia Pearce

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