The Vathomi, better known as the strange and alien peoples of the Vathomion Isles , are the strangest culture on all of Zheng-Kitar - and for good reason. They are wholly unfathomable and incomprehensible to all who encounter them, for they seem to be a species all their own. Rumors abound about the mysterious Vathomi from the enarby lands of Dhara all the way to the far-off nation of Tarthus-Tetsu - rumors about their pale skin, pupil-less eyes that shine with a baleful purple light, and with minds and personalities that just seem so foreign to others that they might as well be aliens...from their style of dress to their culture.
The Vathomi are a strange bunch with a wholly unique appearance unlike anyone else on Zheng-Kitar - their skin is blanched and pale to almost a pallid grey color, their veins vericose and bulging, visible through their skin like thick lines of rubber that pulse as if alive. Their faces can vary wildly, but tend to be gaunt and haggard, as if their extra skin has been sucked off their face. Their eyes are also unique in that they wholly lack pupils - their eyes are solid colors that can vary but tend to be purple or violet, blue, grey, or sometimes pink or green.
Their culture garb tends to be long-flowing robes that are somehow incredibly well made - almost uncannily so. They wear beautiful garb made of silks and other strange and foreign fabrics, and tend to wear form-fitting and tight cloaks, robes, and the like. No one knows where or how they get or make this garb - and they are not keen on revealing it. Due to their cultural history of seafaring and military might, their garb tends to be sharp and fit for military service, typically in naval fashion. When relaxing, they wear loose fitting robes or other garments that are less restricting and more billowing.
The history of the Vathomi is one gigantic mystery to the outside world - the Vathomion Isles are not commonly visited by many mainland people from Zheng-Kitar nor any other cultures, save perhaps native populations of Dai-Yukai
that plague the Isles' northern reaches. Their history is thus one shrouded in mystery, as is the history of their strange masters, the pale-skinned cephalapodic masters of the "Blackstone Steles" that dot the land above and below the waves, which seem to serve as conduits to another realm far removed from this one.
Beyond their service to these strange, tentacled masters of the Blackstone Steles in a relationship that has been speculated over but never confirmed due to their masters' reluctance to show themselves to any but the Vathomi - whether they are enslaved or simply working allies is all but unknown, but they have been together for time untold, ever since others first made contact with the pale-skinned Vathomi many centuries ago. Ever since, they have maintained distant, cold contact with others - their history is full of cold and bitterly cordial first-contact meetings with other cultures and peoples - meetings full of cold sympathy and sterile greetings, where the alien fleets of the Vathomi met with those of outsiders for greetings, trade, and very careful cultural exchange.
Vathomi culture is rigid and hierarchical - as well as incredibly militaristic. Their society is incredibly naval and based around the ocean, and the massive Vathomi Dockyards are said to be things of alien wonder - where ships that defy mortal reckoning are assembled in their births by strange organic growths and telekinetic force - but few, if any, have ever laid eyes on these dockyards and lived to tell the tale. Vathomi are incredibly secretive about themselves and their culture, and it is for this very reason, and the strictness with which they intercept approaching fleets and guide them to specific ports of call, that no Vathomi cities are marked on maps or any kind - one is guided to them, and never sails to them of their own accord, for ships approaching without a Vathomi escort are likely to be dragged down to the ocean's bottom without warning by the eldritch defenses that guard their ports.
The societal castes of Vathomi Culture are well-defined, and enforced rigidly - once a creature has been born they are given an assignment and placed in that caste for life, barring extraordinary events or trauma. One's lot in life is determined in Vathomi Culture from birth, though these different castes are a bit different than most caste-based societies, and generally stand equal with each other, with one exception. One does not question their lot in life in Vathomi culture - one merely accepts it and performs their duties to the utmost. These castes are listed below, along with a description of their duties:
- The Fire Caste - Comprises most of the Vathomi land military, and serve as the Vathomi warriors and defenders.
- The Earth Caste - Composed not only of laborers and technicians, but also artisans, scientists and engineers. The members of the Earth Caste form the foundations upon which the the rest of the Vathomi Culture is built. They also frequently serve the Shadow Caste in their building projects and the construction of all the Vathomi's strange technology.
- The Water Caste - Comprised primarily of merchants and diplomats. They are tasked with seeking, handling, and maintaining diplomatic contact with other cultures, as well as maintaining the ease of communication and cooperation between the other castes. The members of this caste are those most likely for outsiders to meet.
- The Air Caste - Comprises most if not all of the Vathomi Navy, and are thus one of the most crucial castes of their society.
- The Light Caste - This caste is reserved exclusively for the leaders of Vathomi society - their leaders and commanders who are the only ones to maintain regular contact with the Shadow Caste.
- The Shadow Caste - This caste is comprised exclusively of the Vathomi's strange cephlapodic masters, theorized to be the true masters of the Vathomi.
Once born, Vathomi children are raised with their parents for a short time, then are handed over to their strange, cephalpodic masters once they reach the humble age of 2 - and are taken back to the Blackstone Steles and spirited away to whatever Alien or Eldritch Realm awaits those beyond those strange pieces of architecture. These children do not return for 10 years - what happens during this time is unknown to all but the Vathomi themselves...in reality, these children are taken up far into the great Star Ocean by the Shadow Caste and are given all manner of training, alterations, and teachings - and when they return, these teenagers are given a place in a caste and placed back with their parents.
To the Vathomi, order and logic are paramount - they are almost entirely unable to feel emotion, though they can catalogue it and understand that it is something others frequently experience. They are cold-hearted and logical, and see emotion as a defect in one's emotional makeup - this makes them excellent tacticians and commanders, and is what lends itself so well to their history of superb naval warfare and excellence. This also is what makes them so alien and strange to other cultures - sadness is not something they feel, it is something they recognize. They do not feel sadness, but can comprehend that a given situation might be 'sad'. As such, any Vathomi who feel emotion are often ostracized or exiled from their people.
Most notably, their culture is heavily based around the ocean - as well as the creatures that live within it. They are incredibly in touch with marine life, and tend to be very good at raising and rearing them - and engendering loyalty from them as well. Their organic fleets are the stuff of eldritch horror, but are well-known - and they have a strange cultural belief in honoring sea life and raising them, and though they are notoriously good at turning marine megafauna into battleships and vessels of war, the mere fact they are good at doing so is a testament to their respect for such creatures.