The name of race En'hi
is pronounced as [en'hi:].
Before we begin to describe this race, we should make a little excurse into their history.
En’hi formed as a separate nation after the division that came upon the elthear during the convergence of the Darkness. It is not known on what basis the Archmage’s curse divided the elthear into three parts. But in the case of the en’hi it can be supposed that they have descended from vokhnn-ta-voll, the elthear librarians. Where does this assumotion come from, I will explain later.
Immediately after the dispersion of the darkness, the en’hi were slightly similar to their past form — they were rather tall and thear-like, only their skin colour changed much. Another fact, which speaks in favor of the pixies originating from the vokhnn, is that the en’hi themselves were very few, as the “vokhnn” was a rare occupation among the thear, requiring special skills. Moreover, at the time of the last battle between the thear at the Avli’im-Ni-Thear (currently Black Field), they stood apart and rather far from the main fight. Remaining as a tight and small group after the division, the en’hi immediately retired to dense forests for unknown reasons.
It is impossible to say how many there were originally separated en’hi exactly, but their exact amount after three thousand years is not as hard to count. Those of them, who at birth belonged to the people of the elthear, who have not gone mad after the division, and who have not vanished into the forests infested by the darkness, remain only six. The other en’hi, who are the descendants of those six, never exceed one hundred in their number.
In their development, or actually degradation, the en’hi went from their elthear ancestors the furthest. Though it would be more precise to say that they were softly lead the wrong way.
The internal organization of their community is like a beehive or an anthill. All individuals, though not fully, retained their consciousness and minimal individual features, yet at the same time absolutely all individuals are controlled by a strict hierarchy, responsibilities division, and the respect for their leaders will . The collective Mind among the en’hi exists but is poorly developed and only responsible for the discipline and the general adjustment in their needs and aspirations.
Due to their reproduction nature and the lack of gender division and roles, the en’hi never wonder about this issue and are not interested in the manifestation of special feelings and emotions towards each other. At the same time a kind of friendship feeling between individuals of the same caste is a quite common and widespread phenomenon.
According to the level of their mental development they have degraded to semisentient races due to their isolation from the outside world, reduction in the number of their personal needs, and the development vector changed onto survival and fighting for territory.
Their total number is about 100 individuals. It ranges within +\- 10, as in their habbitat the en’hi are not at the top of the food chain.
The name "en’hi" comes from the elthear “ieny-khiil,” “the one who knows.” Kavs started to call the en’hi as pixies and black fairies because of their resemblance to the fairy-tale characters.
The en’hi have no written language, as their spoken dialect actually remains unchanged from the elthear. But at the same time their vocabulary has greatly reduced, and speech patterns have been simplified.
Their habitat is not known for sure, because the eh'hi prefer not to contact the outside world. A curious fact: only in the Vsald county and its suburbs the tale of the Silly Huntsman and the Black Fairies is still popular among the kavian farmers and is considered not only as children’s entertainment, but also a warning for all new inhabitants of these places.
Time is a very abstract notion for the en'hi. Only few of them follow it and measure the years they’ve lived, while most of the en’hi prefer not to think about it at all.
En’hi average life expectancy is around 20 years, and yet they cannot get old or die of age.
Hierarchy (from the strongest to the weakest).
Guardians of the Forest — the six of the remainingl elthear, turned into en’hi after the dividing.
Chasers — 10-15 individuals whose physical strength and agility are superior to all others’.
Foragers and Builders — employees who’ve decided on their occupation 2-3 years after the birth.
Workers — recently born, or rather hatched (?) individuals, physically and mentally weak.
Guardians of the Forest.
Those are the elthear survivors of the division, who became the first en’hi. After three thousand years, only six of them remain, who now are the “top” of the pixies society. From their original vokhnn-ta-voll forms they have managed to partially maintain their appearance and almost fully their brain and memory. They have also retained the ability to move onto the Shadow Plane and use the thear libraries. Though there is almost no sense in it now.
First of all, because the Guardians’ bodies, both physical and mental, have undergone tremendous changes as a result of the dividing. Formerly living and composed of bones, flesh, and blood, their bodies turned into something more of a plant, where the blood is substituted by a transparent juice, and bones and flesh — by fiber. Because of the fibers, the Guardians’ bodies resemble the thear less, as it’s easier for them to rebuild their fibers or grow a new limb using fibers, than doing the same with thears’ bodies. In the first years of their existence the en’hi went drunk with the capabilities of their new bodies and did not notice immediately the deficiencies. And the deficiencies were numerous.
The first of them is “withering.” Yes, despite the eternal life, inherited from the thear, the en’hi bodies eventually turn dry much like plants. To sustain their life they need food, or better liquid food, as their new bodies have nothing to digest solid food. The inexhaustible life force, the feature of all thear, does not help much here — either it was not supposed by the Archmage to extend onto the plant bodies, or all this force is spent on maintaining the minds of the Elder.
Another problem was an extremely small size of their mental bodies — the things that allow (or rather allowed, as it is no more valid in the current situation) all the magicians (except for the liches and sentient undead) to process the streams of magical energy and convert it into mana to create some kind of magic. The small size of the mental body means inability to create complex and strong spells, quick fatigue of the magician, and a serious risk not to cope with the amount of the summoned power flow if its volume is greater than the volume of the mental body.
Secondly, the en’hi themselves have completely lost the thear spark for curiosity, research, and innovation. The Guardians treat the stored knowledge as if it was a collection of favorite but unnecessary things, which remain in the attic and are covered with layers of dust. Sometime they resort to this knowledge, but only to find new ways to prolong their lives and create the offspring, or some sort of slaves, who would care about them. Yet, despite everything aforementioned, they keep jealously protecting what is stored, and they are ready to kill everyone who gets to know anything about their treasure.
The problem of the small volume of mental bodies and the Guardians’ weak magical powers was solved very peculiarly — they have joined their minds via the Shadow Plane, completely erasing any personal boundaries and transforming themselves into a single mind, habituating six bodies. That is why they have no names, and their appearance smoothened in time and became the same for all the six of the Guardians. Together they are able to significantly strengthen themselves, create minions, and take their weak minds under their vigilant control. Of course, the Guardians’ magic power has significantly increased, but it still has very sensible boundaries, which is why the number of the en’hi offspring individuals is strictly controlled by the Guardians, their mind processes are deliberately slowed, and the Guardians’ “higher intelligence” imposes on them their masters’ will and alters their behavior.
The Guardians’ Connection to the Darkness.
Wandering through the thick and fast-growing forests of the Valley, the elthear, who have turned into the en’hi, have quickly realized that not only their bodies have changed, but also the world around them. They started to observe that the days became shorter, the colors around them faded, and the forest, day by day becoming thicker, hid something in its depth.
Finally the en’hi met this “something” — the very Darkness, which had clouded the entire thear Yellow Valley and then sort of dissipated during the last war. Or so it seemed. The densest parts of the new forests became a good home for the Darkness. Existing in the Real Plane in the form of a black mist freely moving on its own, it thickened near springs and other water sources, poisoning them and, thus, infecting wild animals and sometimes even sentient beings, who stumbled across the water. Infected by the Darkness, they grew old and withered faster than usual, sometimes even went mad, and eventually died of exhaustion, as the Darkness drained their vital forces.
En’hi, having seen and realized all of that thanks to the thear mind clarity they’d preserved, very quickly understood they were trapped, and that they had only two ways out. The first was resisting and fighting the Darkness. A heroic solution, indeed, worth of many beautiful ballads, yet, there was one problem — the former elthear had lost their mastery of the magic. It either did not work or worked in an unexpected way that led to the opposite results of spells or even to fatal outcomes. Besides, the en’hi bodies began to wither and weaken, which was a great shock for the formerly eternal beings. To fight an incorporeal entity, while yourself having no magical powers and becoming weaker and weaker with each passing day? A suicidal idea. The en’hi had no other choice but find another way out — symbiosis with the darkness.
Fortunately (and completely randomly) the en’hi found out that the mist was sentient and acted with a purpose. When some of them went to the Shadow Plane, they found out that the black mist was still there, though much denser; it even tried to form some strange shapes, as if trying to repeat the en’hi silhouettes. Finally they managed to find a way to communicate with the Darkness — it well understood and produced thought-forms, something close to the thear telepathy. The Darkness offered the thear to become infected and, thus, obtain an eternal life for their withering bodies — in exchange for the vitality of living beings.
The conditions were as follows:
the Darkness infected the en’hi with its essence, which significantly increased their blood magic skills — the only power non-dependent on external magical flows, which helped the en’hi to master spells. By the way, the thear always considered blood magic to be the weakest and most “dirty” kind of magic, and very few had studied it. Now, though, their descendants had to overstep their own principles for the sake of their survival. With the help of the contaminated blood, the en’hi could change their body, so that they withered and grew old much slower, or even got younger, regaining thus immortality.
In return, the en’hi had to find creatures with pure blood and great vitality. The Darkness would drink all the forces from them and would either replace the blood with its essence, thus turning the victims into kind mind-controlled of zombies, or it would simply kill them. The Darkness could not “drink” the en’hi as the Archmage’s creations did not actually belong to its native world, and, thus, it could not use their vitality for its own needs. (This is, actually, the reason why the ar’the, ad’es, and en’hi are not afraid of it and do not see it as much of a threat — unlike the kavs, who have already mixed their blood very much through alliances with other nations and, thus, weakened their innate immunity to the Darkness, or unlike any other races, who have originally belonged to this world and never had any protection against the Darkness.)
Having regained the ability to use magic and live forever, the en’hi started thinking about creating minions, who could do all the work of finding the victims for the Darkness, and who would also serve the en’hi. That is how the new en’hi appeared, and their creators took another name — the Guardians of the Forest.
Using the thear knowledge, the Guardians grew the first tree, which bore several cocoons with new creations. The Guardians might have used their own blood, or even flesh, to form a most stable structure, nevertheless, one way or another, after several unsuccessful and unsustainable experiments they created the most stable kind to be their slaves. The first batch had a very low intelligence and, as a consequence, little abilities for subjugation and survival, so they were destroyed right after their creation. The second tree, and the second batch of the new en’hi, fully satisfied their creators, who decided to make no more changes to the process.
In addition to creating slaves, the Guardians also thought of ways to control them. The solution to this problem was found quite easily — having lowered the slaves’ intelligence and linking their minds in something like a hive mind, beehive, the Guardians obtained creatures, which followed commands without any questions and were devoid of any personality and self-interest. A little later, the Guardians joined their minds through the Shadow Plane, and noted (with pleasure), that they could control their own creatures in a very simple way — they had just to outline a circle for them, which they were forbidden to overstep, by periodically suppressing in their minds the desire for knowledge of the outside world and for self-learning.
The Workers (10-20 individuals).
They are the first and the lowest caste among the new en’hi. Newly hatched from wooden cocoons, the Workers look all the same — pale green skin, soft body design, absence of any cover, and eyes closed with a thin film. It should be noted, that all the en’hi are born without any external and internal genitalia, as they reproduce themselves in another way, and their body structure is rather different from any humanoid or animal species.
The first couple of days the workers dry in the sun and acquire self-consciousness. After that they are able able to speak, think, and perform simple orders.
Generally, the workers follow the orders received directly from the Guardians, which are usually to dig something, to clear a clearing of branches and plants, to build a shelter from the rain, or anything else. Their work is quite hard, and only half of the workers (who hatched in one cycle) survive to be “promoted.” Constantly near the Guardians, the Workers are imbued with their majesty and power, and they already at early age realise their place in the life of the “hive” and the authority of their “masters.” At the same time, each of them has so-called “the heart of the forest,” a glowing white flower, growing in their bodies, which functiond as a heart for all the en’hi (except for the Guardians, of course). See below for more about the flowers.
The Builders and Foragers (20 & 50+ individuals).
The second en’hi caste, which stands above the workers. These pixies represent already formed creatures with a stable (though weak) psyche and their own preferences in appearance. They start getting used to the blood magic, which is, of course, thousand times weaker than the Guardians’ magic; nevertheless, it allows the Builders and Foragers to change their bodies, making them more suitable for the life in the forest. First of all, all of the pixies grow wings, without which they cannot travel for long distances. Each of the en’hi can fly, but they can only fly non-stop for quite short distances (max 100-200 m), because they grow tired quickly. Besides the wings, the en’hi often add a pair of legs or flexible vines, which they use can as limbs. The Foragers often resort to such changes for greater convenience when carrying out their work. The Builders usually grow chitin plates on their bodies and strengthen their limbs for greater protection, strength and dexterity.
The Types of Work Performed by this Caste:
Builders make housing (the Haven) for the entire hive, except for the Guardians (they do not live with the rest of the en’hi), mostly on the largest tree in the neighborhood. The residences look like a multi-level structure made of hammocks and decks, where all the castes spend their nights. The Builders also often form special glands in their bodies; these glands are capable of producing a “blue resin” — a liquid substance with adhesive properties, which after solidification remains elastic, ceases being sticky, and also does not have any smell or taste. They use this resin in construction and the manufacture of water tanks.
Foragers take care of the wild fruit trees and berry bushes, water springs, and other nutrition sources of for the entire Haven, collect rations and water for a couple of days in advance. To store water, they use the tanks made by the Builders. This kind of the en’hi add themselves an ability to scatter around pollen to scare or put into sleep predatory animals that may wander into the Haven territory. A Forager is not capable of killing a beast or a monster distorted by the Darkness, but they can buy themselves enough time to escape.
The Chasers (10-15 individuals).
The third and the last but one stage in the caste hierarchy, the Chasers are the en’hi over fifteen y. o., should they live that long... By this time pixies grow to their maximum height of 1.2–1.3 m and acquire a decent life experience. The Guardians appoint new Chasers and give them a little more magical power, so that they could strengthen their bodies for combat. The main opponents of the Chasers are wild animals and infected monsters wandering into the Haven territory. The Chasers kill them, thus showing that the territory is occupied, and its owners can stand up for themselves. Also, this caste serves as the “voice” of the Guardians — they give orders to the lower en’hi and punish the guilty or lazy ones.
As it has been mentioned, both the former en’hi and their slaves cannot eat solid food because of the changes in their bodies and their greater similarity with plants and insects than with animal or humanoid creatures. Therefore, their main diet includes water and fruits with berries. The Foragers stock up the food to sustain the whole “Hive” from a Guardian to a Worker. Because juices and nectars go sour, and the water loses its taste, the Foragers have to replenish the stocks every two or three days.
Haven and Its Territory.
The Haven is the very tree, where the en’hi build their decks to sleep. They are located as follows: the lowest levels on the one side belong to the Workers, who are not able to fly, or fly very poorly and thus climb the trunk or vines; the opposite side belongs the Chasers who always need to be alert and quickly react and go down in case of any danger threatening the “hive”; the upper levels are fully occupied by the second caste, the Builders and Foragers.
The Haven territory is the area within a couple of kilometers radius. Usually in this location there are several springs, fruit and berry trees, as well as a few clearings, suitable for the needs of the Guardians. Every 300–500 years the Guardians change the Haven dislocation and move with their minions to a few dozens of kilometers into one of the corners of the world as the springs and fruit trees in the previous spot dry up and cease to bear food.
The Chasers are responsible for the Haven’s protection. Several times a day they overfly distant areas, drive away or kill intruders if those are alone; if they come in a pack, they either call for other Chasers with the power of their Heart, or use the prepared for such occasions poison baits. The enemies of the en’hi are usually forest predators: wolves, bears, big cats, wild trolls, forest dragons, or monsters in the final stage of the Darkness infection — they are no longer controlled by it, and they are driven by madness and fury.
Heart of the Forest.
That is the white flower that grows on the body of each en’hi, except for the Guardians. The ripening period lasts for 3-5 years. It was intentionally added into the slaves’ bodies by the Guardians for the following purposes:
firstly, it brings the total control over all of the en’hi. With the help of these magical flowers, the Guardians sense every one of them, can read their minds, erase memories, inspire their will, and suppress any nonconformity. The Guardians use the hearts to directly and (likely) telepathically communicate with the Chasers, and only unilaterally. Only the Chasers as well can communicate among themselves with the help of the hearts. In addition, the Guardians monitor all the slaves’ movements via their hearts, and they can order the Chasers to seize and punish those, who try to escape from the Haven;
secondly, the state of each of the hearts allows to determine the age of each of the pixies. 1–3 y. o. — a bud, 3–5 y. o. — a blossoming flower, 5–10 y. o. — a large glowing flower. For older pixies it does not change;
thirdly (and finally), the forest’s heart is nothing, but the most important ingredient to extend the Guardians’ lives. From time to time the body of one of the Guardians withers to such a degree that it can only be restored with a special ritual involving thedarkness and the thear blood magic. A Guardian rips out a slave’s ripe heart (4–7 y. o. ), which rejuvenates them significantly. The ritual itself will be described in more details in the second chapter. Without a heart the en’hi may continue to exist, but they will lose all the magic, and their body will start to weaken and wither.
Gift of the Forsaken.
The en’hi were gifted with the inability to walk the ground with their own legs. However, it only started to manifest itself after a day of walking and, thus, presented little problems both for the Guardians, who wander in the woods with frequent short stops, and for the other en’hi, who were used to flying rather than walking. If you look at today’s Guardians, who restlessly stand for most of their time, you may assume that they have found a way to circumvent the curse, probably, by growing an extra pair of limbs, which they use to stand on instead of legs...
Reproduction is the most mysterious question in the history of the en’hi, at least only because all the pixies (except for the Guardians and Chasers) have no idea where all the trees with cocoons growing on them come from. The Guardians diligently erase all the memories of the lower en’hi who might have accidentally seen the process of such trees creation. Of course, for a reason.
This happens as follows. During the aforementioned ritual, a Guardian rips out a selected slave’s heart, while “splicing” their body into the tree. This undoubtfully painful procedure ends with the slave’s death. Single standing oaks or maples are usually chosen for the ritual purposes. During this process, the Darkness, having received a gift from the Guardians, acts as a link in the transformation of wood and an en’hi body into a united being. Having received the new properties, the tree then changes a lot and, instead of acorns and chestnuts, it bears two or three dozens of cocoons. These cocoons grow together with the developing inside embryos. Some of them wither due to the lack of wood juice provision, which results in only 10-15 cocoons ripening in the end. After the cocoons hatch, the tree withers and dies. The very ritual takes place about once every 6–8 years.
Full author's comments to the chapter "Blooming and Wilted".
So, it's time for me to tell the tale of local powers that be - The Guardians of the Forest. They've managed to keep minds, memories, faces and wisps of hair as the only remnants of immortal bodies of the Eltear race they once possessed. Everything else got irrevocably changed during the Divide. Their mouths never move, expressions never change. In their current state they can only articulate with their eyes. Guardians never use verbal speech and communicate with the darkness, the Hunters and one another via telepathy and mind control. As the following few pages will be devoid of spoken words, I'll be the one to chat, commenting on everything with tidbits of lore and explaining the current goings-on.
Across the span of the Guardians' existences their bodies undergo the repeating cycle of stages: blooming, tranquility and withering. The process is repetitive and self-sustaining thanks to the darkness with which the Guardians have forged an alliance. Without its interference their shells start to desiccate after the stage of withering and eventually cease to be. That was the bane plaguing the elthear after the Divide in the beginning of the new age. After an arduous set of tests by trial and error they've managed to find a way of prolonging their bodies' existence, yet by that time there were only six of them left out of hundreds.
The alliance between the darkness and the Guardians was
supposed to be profitable for both sides of the agreement, lest it would be struck without any meaning. In exchange for salvation from death the former elthear have promised to deliver creatures with vast life force to the darkness. That way the darkness, still exhausted after its triumphant rush, has received constant supply of power since those times and has been attaching itself to the Real plane with firm grip while the Guardians have achieved immortality along with the capability to distort, resculpt and create new flesh as a replacement for the now-lost thear magic.
The darkness gains life force from living creatures' blood, draining it out akin to a leech. This energy is very close to magical in its contents and principles of usage so it's valuable to everyone capable of separating it from the host and using it. At least due to the fact that there are no other external sources of magical force in the Yellow Valley at the moment.
A severely wounded human or any other creature that had misfortune to get lost in the black forest will be drained of life to the state of dessicated husk in mere seconds by the eternally hungry darkness. While losing its life force so quickly, the victim instantly ages, doesn't realize what's happening to them and does not have time to even feel pain.
Aside from life force the darkness also gains the postmortem aura - another type of energy that can be manipulated only by undead or incorporeal entities of Nar'rah's.
Three thousand years ago The Guardians have created their servants not only to order them around, control them and use them as protectors, yet also to prolong their own lives. Essentially all newborn en'hi cultivate Hearts of the Wood on their bodies specially for their masters. These faintly glowing white flowers reverse aging within Guardians' bodies and grant them few more years until the next stage of "withering" begins anew.
Ripping those "hearts" out is painful and irreversible - no slave can manage to give birth to another one, second flower. En'hi can live without those Hearts, yet they lose almost all of their magical power. They won't be able to shapeshift their bodies or regenerate lost limbs, their stamina will decrease and wings will become weak and fragile. In other words, those slaves become useless to their masters. That's why The Guardians have embedded another secret into their creations, so-called "molding".
As the darkness receives its offering from the Guardians, it fulfills its own part of the contract - it splices now-heartless enhi's body with a living tree and warps their forms into one single being with powers of distortion. The result is a new plant that resembles vast oak devoid of leaves, branches of which eventually give birth to cocoons with new en'hi growing within.