The alk are one of the many Rendi races that live on Demrefor. They mostly live on islands in the Rendi, though there is one alk-owned country on Carra’Jor and many smaller alk communities in Das, Lengsor, and the Rendi continent.
The alk lifestyle is based heavily around the Star Seer religion, with about 98% of their population living in tribal societies. It is rare to find alk living outside of their own communities; those who do tend to live with other Rendi races or dassens.
As they don’t often leave their own communities, there are many misconceptions about the alk people. One of the most common issues is that un-tattooed alk may be mistaken for avio / human hybrids. They find this extremely frustrating and have been known to stop conversations when it is brought up; simply standing up and walking away in silence, with no explanation or correction.
Like all Rendi races, they share a history and origin and believe themselves to be descended from the nurlak wizard Rendi. Their connection to the Rendi is the only reason they are considered Sentients and not Mystics.
Alk are short humanoid people who are considered the least-birdlike of the Rendi races; unlike other Rendi races, they do not have bird talons for feet, only bare a small pair of wings, and are mammalian.
They are more often compared to humans than other Rendi races because of their rounded ears, lack of scaly skin and talons, and non-hollow bones. They find this offensive, however, and much prefer to be compared to the avio or harpy people.
They have a variety of body types and, though they tend to naturally lean towards slender frames, alk of all shapes have been found across the world.
Av. Height (Male): 4’6”
Av. Height (Female): 4’4”
Feathers and Wings
Alk have feathers in place of body hair. Most of the feathers found on their body are short, soft semiplume feathers that help their bodies regulate heat.
The feathers on their heads and genitalia are closer to contour feathers, and the length and shape vary from alk to alk.
The wings of an alk are too small to use for flight. Instead, their wings have strong, non-hollow bones in them and the muscles are extremely easy to build up; making them perfect weapons in combat. A hit with a wing will leave a nasty bruise and, in the case of a trained warrior, break bones.
As children, the feathers in their wings are naturally soft and downy; but as they get older, these soft feathers are replaced by strong flight feathers, and the skin on their wings begin to secrete a special oil. This oil coats the feathers of the wing and hardens them until they have a texture similar to cardboard.
If an alk maintains their wings properly their feathers may become blade-like. This means that a harsh blow will cause scratches and cuts that —due to the oils containing natural bacteria— leave the injured with a high chance of infection.
Alk feathers can be any colour, from green to yellow to black. However, they tend to only have one main colour to their feathers, with only slight shade variation.
Alk that show multiple colourations in their feathers aren’t impossible, but are believed to have avio ancestry.
Alk skin ranges from dark brown, to beige, to pale white.
Sometimes alk may have odd-coloured tinges in their skin, such as blue or pink. These colourations aren’t very noticeable however and are mostly seen in scars and birthmarks. If an alk shows an odd shade in their skin they are believed to be “blood-inked” by their ancestors; the tattoo ink from their lineage has bled into their family’s blood and been passed down to them, permanently discolouring underneath their skin.
Like their feathers, alk eyes can be any colour. Heterochromia is surprisingly common in alk, being noticeable in roughly 10% of the population.
Mouth and Teeth
Alk mouths are dark and fleshy, with naturally yellowed teeth and well-shaped bites.
Their teeth are stronger and wear slower than most other Sentient’s; allowing them to chew on tougher foods and bite through shells and bones.
They also have naturally great control over their tongues and lips, which lets them imitate animal calls will minimal training.
Though there are features agreed upon as being common among male and female alk, there is a large crossover of sexually dimorphic traits and there are no traits strictly dictated by an alk’s sex.
The most common difference between male and female alk are their figures; female alk have wider hips, making child baring easier, while male alk tend to have straighter figures.
When alk gain fat instead of muscle, it tends to distribute in ways that exaggerate their figures. Generally, female alk will have higher concentrations of fat around their hips and legs. And male alk tend to hold more fat around their stomachs and arms.
This fat displacement affects the development of muscle. Though male and female alk are able to develop muscle just as quickly as each other, their fat distribution means they find it easier to strengthen different muscles. Female alk tend to favour their lower half, while males favour their upper body strength.
Female alk are more likely to develop enlarged mammary glands and breasts than males are. However, it is completely possible for male alk to develop functional breasts; roughly 25% of male alk have working mammary glands and are able to produce milk in the right conditions.
The feathers on a male alk’s head will grow into a crest during puberty. These crests can be raised and lowered at will, and are not noticeable when not raised. It is extremely rare for female alk to get these crests.
Nobody is sure why males have these crests while females don’t. It is thought they used to be used for sexual display; though they can be used to express a variety of emotions.
Deformities and Disabilities
Sometimes alk children will be born with their wings fused into their backs. At first, when their wings are small, this won’t cause many issues. However as they age and their wings grow a variety of issues may arise that can be detrimental to their health.
The first problem is that as the wings get bigger they can grow in awkward positions. Either sticking out of the back at positions that make them easy to bang and damage; or positions that cause them to stick into their hips, ribs, and spines, causing severe muscle and nerve damage.
The second problem is that their feathers will continue to grow on their wings, and become embedded into the alk’s back. When alk start to secrete their wing-oil, it will coat their back and the wounds from their ingrown feathers, causing infection and blisters.
Alk will amputate the wings on children born with this condition as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Spiderwing is a condition where an alk’s wing will remain bald, and grow no feathers. Around 50% of alk with spiderwing also suffer from full-body baldness; with no feathers on their heads or bodies.
The name “spiderwing” comes from the oils that secrete from the bald wings of the alk. When an alk does not have spiderwing, the oils are absorbed into the feathers; but when an alk has spiderwing, the oils are not absorbed and instead slowly drip off the wing in a spiderweb-like pattern that never fully hardens and has a very slimy texture.
Because spiderwing took away one of the alk’s most natural defences it was seen as a restrictive condition for a long time. However, in 3,028 AE a fighting style was developed by a group of alk with the condition and since then the stigma behind spiderwing has practically disappeared.
The fighting style utilises the air-exposed oils by aiming blows at the face of the opponent. This is done in an attempt to cover their eyes with the sticky oil to blind them. Because of the texture of the oil it can only be fully removed with water, so a blow to the face will debilitate opponents for long after the fight has been won.
Spiderwing oil is also heavily valued in the international black market as a hallucinogen.
Reproduction and Lifespan
Wishes, Close Ones, Chosens, and Others
Alk are generally monogamous taking only one partner at a time, and they have unique words for their romantic interests.
The first stage of an alk’s relationship will be their Wish.
An alk’s Wish is their crush; someone they’re interested in but have not yet engaged romantically.
They tend to use the term Wish as a way to avoid people overhearing the name of their crush and, a lot of the time, even the closet friends of the alk in question don’t know the name of their friend’s Wish.
Alk who start relationships will call their romantic partner their Close One.
They will still live separate, with their time spent as Close Ones being used for bonding, learning to compromise, and to make sure they are compatible.
It usually takes at least a year for alk to consider marriage.
When alk get married they refer to their spouse as their Chosen.
The marriage ceremony for alk will change from tribe to tribe and person to person. Generally, though, it will be a very personalised ceremony that seeks to emphasise and combine the most prominent aspects of the two partners. The marriage between a hunter and warrior may focus on displays of physical strength; while the ceremony for a healer and a gatherer may focus on creativity.
It is not uncommon for alk to leave their Chosen, though divorce laws will vary from tribe to tribe. Mostly it will be done by a symbolic severing of their souls from each other; such as cutting a string or burning a tassel made from their feathers.
There is a very special and very important partnership that will be taken by the tribe’s leader. This partnership is not a regular marriage, in which the leader and their Chosen are wed; but is a symbolic connection of the leader to their tribe through their Other partner.
The leader’s Other is a spouse that they are wed to during their leadership ceremony. The term “Other” is used because, though alk are mostly monogamous, it is common for the leader to already be married to their own Chosen and for the Other to be a secondary spouse.
The leader’s Other is usually chosen by the tribe and has a high chance to be someone that the leader has no romantic or sexual interest in. Because of this, it is not uncommon for leaders and their Other to be in open relationships, where the Other may have their own Close One (though they generally cannot marry).
Because of its significance to the leadership ceremony, Other is a term reserved specifically for the spouse of the leader and is not used in any other polyamorous situation.
Alk have very smooth contour feathers covering their genitalia. These feathers will vary in texture, colour, and length from alk to alk.
Generally, male alk will have softer, shorter feathers; while female alk will have longer, smoother feathers.
Both sexes will moult their feathers on a monthly basis, with their moult coinciding with their most fertile time in the reproductive cycle.
Female alk have two layers of labia. The urethral opening is inside the first layer, while the vaginal opening is inside the second. Because of the layers, it is extremely important for alk to keep their labia clean to avoid infections, and they are encouraged to wash several times a day.
An alk’s clitoris is internal. Found slightly inside the vaginal passage, just past the hymen on the lower section of the vaginal wall, it is extremely sensitive and provides the majority of their sexual stimulus.
Male alk have long penises with a slight arrow-shape to them. Along the underside of their penis they have several bulges that harden as they become erect. These are believed to have formed solely to stimulate the clitoris of female sexual partners.
Their foreskins come up all the way to their testicles, meaning that they are extremely sensitive to outside stimuli. Due to this washing can be painful, but because of how much space the foreskin covers unwashed alk are at an extremely high risk of penile infection. There are certain alk tribes that circumcise their newborns because of this, though most do not.
Intersex individuals are rather common in alk. Alk that have both male and female genitalia will make up between 5%-10% of the alk population at any given time.
The high level of intersex individuals are thought to contribute to the common crossover of sexually dimorphic traits in male and female alk.
Alk are the only mammalian Rendi race. This is reflected in their reproductive system as they are the only Rendi race to give live-births instead of laying eggs. Because they live-birth their pregnancies last the longest of all the Rendi races; 8 months. However, as there is no time spent in eggs their full gestation period is considered the shortest of all Rendi races.
Labour for an alk lasts between 4-6 hours and ranges in difficulty from alk to alk. Sometimes new mothers will have labour last up to 8 hours, though this is rare.
While twins are not uncommon, it is rare for an alk to have triplets and there has never been an alk known to have 4 or more children in one pregnancy. Usually, twins are identical, with only around 4% of twins being fraternal.
Because of how common identical twins are, conjoined twins aren’t a rarity. 10% of alk twins are joined in some way (though only 1 in 200 of these children can’t be separated safely). When conjoined alk are separated at birth, tattoo dye is added into their wounds to deliberately mark where their siblings were joined. This is because alk believe these twins are joined spiritually as well as physically, and that marking the place they were joined will let the children seek each other out through this connection.
Many alk claim to be able to feel when their sibling physically touches their mark; though it cannot be proven.
After birth alk develop rather quickly. They begin teething within 4 weeks of their births, are able to start eating solids by 3 months, and are usually weaned off milk by 6 months. By 7 months their communication skills are developing and they will be able to begin saying their first words.
They spend the next few years learning basic skills such as reading, writing, and social relationships with their immediate families. By 4 eclipses alk are able to move into more complex developmental skills and concepts, and their memories, attention spans, and physical coordination improving. They will also generally be apprenticed around this time and begin socialising more broadly; meeting the rest of their tribe on a more personal level than before.
Their development only starts to slow down around 9 eclipses; usually when they hit puberty. The slowness of their development during these years eases the process and makes the next stages of their development a lot less uncomfortable.
This is especially important as puberty is when they start secreting oil from their wings, and they are prone to rashes as their skin and feathers adjust to the chemicals in the oil.
They start feeling romantic interests in partners around 12, though they usually don’t act on these until they’re 16 or 17 eclipses. This is less to do with lack of romantic urges and more to do with their mentors becoming stricter in anticipation of their potential mistakes, and only easing off once they have become more mature.
Puberty tends to finish at 20 eclipses. This is when they are considered adults, graduate their apprenticeships, and when they start getting into more serious relationships. They will generally start trying for their first child between 22 and 25 eclipses.
Alk start to slow down around 50 eclipses and it is best that they retire at this age. However, most alk don’t and end up shortening their lifespans through overexertion.
• The average alk lifespan is 65 eclipses, though the average for lifespan alk that live in other Sentient cultures is 55 eclipses.
• Though their average lifespan is 65 eclipses, they are able to live up to 100 eclipses if they retire and take things easy in their old age.
• The child mortality rate for alk is 7%, with most of these being due to injuries during their apprenticeships.
• The oldest living alk was the Spirit Caller Tyomi, whose apprentices continually died before they were able to take over his role. He lived to be 143 eclipses and had a heart attack during his final apprentice’s graduation ceremony.
Almost all alk are Star Seers or live in Star Seer owned countries. Because of this their culture is very tribal and they live their lives surrounded by their natural environment.
As they live mostly on small islands they are rather cut-off from the rest of the world and all tribes will have their own sub-cultures and traditions that they find comfortable. Though they are varied, there are some universal culture norms that all alk follow.
Alk are extremely casual about physical contact. It is very common to find resting alk lounging on top of each other or cuddling, regardless of their relationships.
They see no problem with touching each other as they speak or standing so close that their hands or wings brush together, and will only refrain from contact if asked to.
It is common for alk to hug, kiss, and gently stroke each other in a platonic manner, and the only part of an alk’s body that is considered inappropriate to touch is their backs. They consider this extremely intimate, and turning their back on someone is seen as a sign of trust.
Cleanliness is very important in alk culture. As they are susceptible to infection and their wings constantly secrete oil most alk will bathe 3-5 times a day.
They have communal bathing areas, generally separated by their professions or age, which are seen as near-sacred by their tribes. It is in poor taste to drink the water of, gather herbs from, or hunt in the immediate surroundings of the bathing area.
Because alk are so physically close they won’t hesitate to help each other bathe; it is rare to find an alk washing themselves and not someone else.
After bathing, alk apprentices will help each other reapply their body paints. This is considered a very important part of their apprenticeships as it teaches them to value their community.
Tribe Members and their Duties
Every tribe member has their own duties in the tribe. At a young age they are allowed to experience tribal duties at their own pace before choosing what they wish to do in the future and joining the adults in an occupation, learning as they grow.
Some of the most common jobs are as follows:
“Apprentice” is the most common translation to the alk word tiko. It may also be translated as: trainee, fledgeling, tenderfoot, and learner.
All tribe members go through an apprenticeship before taking on their final role in their tribe. They begin their training after their 4th eclipse, though they may be held back until their 6th or 7th eclipse if they are sickly or develop slowly.
They will be assigned a mentor in their chosen profession to train them during their apprenticeship, who will take on full guardianship of them until their graduation. Because of the young age they begin training at, most apprentices have a closer relationship with their mentors than their biological parents.
Though it’s not common, alk apprentices may change their profession several times before settling on what they want to do.
Because they have not yet chosen a permanent profession in the tribe they do not get tattoos; instead, they must paint their marks on themselves every day. Apprentices find this extremely tedious, though their mentors will tell them that if they “hate” their painted marks, they will hate their tattoos and should do something else. Most apprentices find this more annoying than actually painting themselves and will complain their mentors don’t understand what they mean.
Apprentices often share sleeping areas, regardless of their profession, and will help each other in their morning routines before joining their mentors for training. This leads most alk to have their closest relationships with others their own age; as they spend most of their social time resting and bathing together after training.
Older apprentices are expected to look out for newer apprentices as if they were younger siblings, though they are generally too busy with their own training to do anything other than solve immediate conflicts.
The hardest part of an alk’s apprenticeship is a little after they turn 12. Not only are they expected to have learnt most of the basics and are pushed to take their profession more seriously, but their mentors will often try and distract them from romance and teen drama by piling on extra training and work until they feel they are mature enough to handle themselves.
They graduate from their apprenticeship after turning 20, will be tattooed in their chosen profession, and earn their full titles and places as members of the tribe.
A part of their graduation ceremony is the taming or creating of a familiar. These familiars are brought into the tribe as “permanent apprentices,” and the alk are expected to care for their familiar as they would any other alk apprentice.
“Warrior” is the most common translation of the alk word katsoma. Other common translations are: fighter, guardian, and protector.
Warriors are the caretakers of the tribes. They are expected to lay down their lives to protect their tribe-mates and are raised with a sense of great honour and duty. However, while warriors may be the main fighters of the tribe, most of their duties are peaceful ones and they are expected to be kind, playful people who watch over their tribe and keep everyone safe.
A large amount of a warrior’s day is spent physically training and practising fighting techniques so that they can protect their tribes from threats such as animal attacks and invading rivals. Most warriors consider these training sessions fun, as they often consist of shows of strength and speed such as play-wrestling, races, and lifting heavy weights.
When they’re not training, warriors will be socialising with the tribe and helping around the village. They rarely turn down requests for help and will have at least amateur knowledge of most tribe duties that are not their own.
They are especially knowledgeable of the healers’ duties. Both because of their own injuries and because of the injuries of others. Warriors often help healers with the physical labour of moving the sick and injured and learn a lot simply by being with the healers as they work.
Warriors also care for the tribe’s young and take on maternal duties in the absence of parents and mentors. It is a common sight to see warriors loping around the village, covered head-to-toe in young children.
“Hunter” is the most common translation to the alk word bolbol. Other translations include: forager, trackers, and rangers.
Hunters are the main source of food for the tribes. Though many outsiders think their title means they only hunt for meat, they actually collect all sorts of food including berries, fish, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and a variety of wild animal meats.
They are taught to recognise and harvest natural food sources for their tribes and scout the land. Because of this hunters are expected to know their territory’s landscape down to the individual trees.
Most hunters are able to navigate the land day or night and act as escorts to other tribe members who need to leave the village. They are especially close with the gatherers, who rely on them in their own day-to-day duties.
Most hunters will rely heavily on group cooperation in their day-to-day lives. From banding together to take down large game or coordinating their efforts to cover the most ground in a search for fruit and berries, hunters are some of the best-coordinated tribe members and have the closest bonds.
And while it is possible for them to work alone, most are uncomfortable if they are not spending their time with at least 1 other tribe-mate.
Alongside gathering natural resources, hunters are expected to care for any of the tribe’s livestock and poultry. They feed the animals, monitor their health, collect eggs or feathers, and choose which animals will be eaten and when.
Being in charge of the tribe’s food also means that the hunters are expected to cook it. Though other tribe members may help them if they have time, part of a hunter’s daily duties is to prepare meals for their tribe.
“Gatherer” is an outdated translation for the alk word mamala. A more accurate translation would be “homekeeper”, though it is rarely used. It may also be translated as: builder, weaver, flintknapper, and maker.
Gatherers are the backbone of the tribes. They are heavily involved with all the other tribe members’ duties and provide the majority of materials and tools for the tribe to use in their day-to-day life. The only thing they don’t gather completely is the tribe’s food, which is the duty of their hunters. Though a gatherer won’t leave behind any food they find while collecting other materials for the tribe, many other Sentient species misunderstand the gatherers’ duties and assume that collecting fruit and berries is the main part of their job.
While outside of their villages, gatherers rely heavily on hunters for navigation. Generally, a group of gatherers will have a hunter accompany them while they collect materials needed for the tribe. Because of this, the food they find is usually collected by the hunter who was with them, instead of by the gatherers.
Alongside collecting building materials, alk gatherers also put those materials to use and are in charge of building almost everything the tribe uses. They maintain the homes their tribe-mates to live in and are in charge of building any needed bridges, wells, or bathing areas. They also create fabrics for bedding and are taught how to weave baskets, carve weapons, and mix and use paints.
Overall, they maintain the tribe’s living space and are expected to make sure the village is safe and clean.
As they spend their time building and decorating, gatherers are considered the creatives of the tribe. They often have their own unique artistic styles, and get into arguments with other gatherers over how work should be done.
Because of this, they are known to gossip and cause drama. Oftentimes, they will be spiteful; deliberately leaving work half-finished to make life harder for tribe-mates who have upset them, or spreading nasty rumours to get their way.
“Healer” is the most common translation to the alk word sisim. Other translations include: doctor, medic, carer, and soother.
Healers are in charge of the health of the tribe. They keep a close eye on all their tribe-mates, looking out for injuries and disease, and treat any wounds or illnesses that may arise. They are usually the most literate of the tribes, usually writing notes on medicinal herbs and keeping the medical history of their tribe-mates written down for future reference.
A healer’s training before graduation is considered some of the strictest; it is not uncommon for young healers to be kicked out of their apprenticeships by their mentors if they are not considered up to a certain standard by their 10th eclipse. Because of this, healers will often grow up to be just as strict as their mentors, having little patience for their tribe-mates and often getting into arguments.
A graduated healer’s true duties begin on the day of their graduation. They are expected to tattoo their other tribe-mates before receiving their own tattoos, with any mistakes to the tattoos being a risk of losing their own right to graduate that year.
After that, they are expected to maintain their tribe-mates’ tattoos, keeping the patterns clean and vibrant, and fixing them if they are damaged in any way.
A healer’s work often intersects with their tribe-mates’. Most commonly the warriors, who are their most frequent visitors for injuries, and who also help the healers with manual labour. Tribe healers will often assign a warrior to help them each day, with obvious favouritism leading to arguments between the doctors.
Healers are also involved in the lives of the hunters; helping them farm needed medicines, and often criticising the diets they choose for their tribe-mates. It is not uncommon for healers to be seen scolding hunters, both new and experienced, for preparing food wrong. A healer’s relationship with the hunters of the tribe tends to be a lot more aggressive than that of a healer and a warrior. It is not uncommon for healers to find the hunters of their tribe actively avoiding them wherever possible.
“The Second” is the most literal translation of the alk word virosu. Rarer titles, which are perhaps more descriptive of their duties, include: representative, ambassador, deputy, heir, and adviser.
The Second is a very select title, only given to the next in line to become a tribe’s leader. They are hand chosen by the leader during the leadership ceremony, and are expected to be one of the leader’s closest confidants.
They are expected to act as the leader’s aid and adviser, and to lay down their life protecting their leader if need be.
The Second is supposed to be whoever the leader deems most suitable to take over after their own death. However, this duty is sometimes taken the leader’s most trusted friend, regardless of their leading ability. This is not always in the best interest of the tribe and many alk say that choosing a friend to be Second is the sign of a selfish leader.
The concerns and advice of the Second are generally of the tribe as a whole. They must know that for the good of the entire tribe they must sometimes sacrifice the wants of individuals. Because of this they are often at odds with the tribe’s Other, and often on the receiving end of the tribe’s criticism.
They are expected to keep a level head through all of this and present facts without bias.
Alongside giving advice to the leader and acting as their bodyguard, the Second is also expected to speak to neighbouring tribes on the leader’s behalf. So they must be careful with their words and willing to solve conflict peacefully regardless of any hurt to their personal pride.
It is rare for a tribe’s Second to lose their title after earning it, though it is not unheard of. In this case, a new Second must be chosen within a week.
“Leader” is the most general translation for the alk work gorgi. Other translations of the word include: chief, headman, and tribefather/tribemother.
The leader of a tribe is responsible for the wellbeing of their tribe and its members. It is their duty to keep the tribe in order; functional, healthy, and happy. Any discontent that arises is considered a fault of the leader for not paying attention to their tribe and its members.
Any action taken by a member of the tribe falls on their leader’s shoulders, and if an alk breaks the laws of another tribe while on that tribe’s land, it is the leader of their own who will face the consequences.
Leaders are expected to take full responsibility for their tribe’s behaviour; whether or not the members of their tribe were following or disobeying orders.
Leadership of the tribes is passed down through careful selection. Before taking on the title of leader, a member of the tribe will take on the title of “the Second”, meaning to be the Second in charge of the tribe. After serving the tribe as the Second until their own leader’s death, they may take control of their tribe through a special ceremony.
The ceremony to become leader will vary from tribe to tribe, but there is one part that is found in every variation: the spiritual connection of the leader to their tribe, represented through a marriage ceremony between the coming leader and a carefully-selected member of the tribe that is to speak for the people. This person is referred to as the Other.
Even if the leader is already married to their own Chosen, this marriage is an important part of the tribe’s rituals and they cannot become leader without accepting their tribe’s selected partner.
Upon the death of their Other, a leader must step down from their position in the tribe, and cannot ever become leader again.
A leader can be forced to retire if the tribe is unhappy with their leadership. This is usually done by forcefully “severing” the bond between them are their Other— Sometimes, if the tribe is unhappy enough, they will kill one of the pair. Though it is very rare for the Other to suffer this consequence in place of the leader.
“Other” is the only accepted translation of the alk word aulol. Strangely, there are no other known translations for this word. The name is earned from this tribe-member being both the “Other” spouse of of the leader, and the “Other” Second to the tribe.
The duties of the Other is to get involved with the tribe’s community and give advice to the tribe’s leader, very similar to the tribe’s Second. However, they are expected to give advice based on the individual concerns of each tribe member and so often find themselves at odds with the Second.
There is only ever one active Other per tribe, though there may be retired Others from previous leaders. This is not extremely common, however, as if an Other does their duties well and is loved by the tribe, they are likely to be selected as the spouse for the new leader so that tribe affairs will continue to flow smoothly.
Generally, it is age that causes a good Other to be passed over to re-marry, as once they reach 50 eclipses the risk of them passing away and forcing the new leader’s early retirement is considered too high.
The Other is expected to be empathetic, loving, and social, and is sometimes negatively characterised as too over-emotional and chatty. Overall, however, an Other is loved by their tribe and is selected with extreme care as they represent the people’s needs.
Unlike the Second, when speaking to neighbouring tribes the Other is rarely in contact with the leaders. Instead they talk to the people of the other tribes, as they would talk to the people of their own.
When faced with a bad leader, a good Other will consent to the severing of the bond between them and their people and thus forcing the leader to retire and protecting their people from bad leadership. Sometimes, however, Others have been forced to more extreme measures to protect their tribe from bad leaders; some even going so far as to commit suicide to ensure their leader is retired.
The Spirit Caller
The “Spirit Caller” is the name given to the religious leaders of the Star Seer religion. Sometimes in alk culture they are referred to as kiki kala, though it is more common to use their International title, even in tribes that speak mostly in the alk language.
There is only one Spirit Caller per island, as they are considered holy. They are the channel between the alk and their Ancestors in the stars. They receive prophecies and speak on behalf of the spirits.
A Spirit Caller will go into training as early as 10 eclipses old, and take over their mentor’s role when they turn 20. When they are around 25-30 eclipses they will seek their own apprentice and retire at the end of their training.
Spirit Callers have the final say in tribe affairs. They can overturn decisions by any tribe leader if they deem it an unwise choice or are told by the ancestors to do so. They are expected to end wars between tribes whenever possible.
However, the powers of the Spirit Caller are not without responsibility. They have many duties, such as meeting with the tribes and their leaders, dealing with corruption and natural disasters, and honourably disposing of the dead.
Unlike the Spirit Callers in the generalised Star Seer religion, alk Spirit Callers are not supposed to take partners as they are expected to focus more on being fair and attentive towards the people, and are considered above “mortal affairs.” Some Spirit Callers have still been married, however, thought it is often at the expense of their duties.
“Familiar” is the common International term used for the alk title tiko taama, which literally translates into permanent apprentice.
Familiars are the spiritual companions of all graduated alk tribe members. The taming or creation of a familiar is a large part of the apprentice graduation ceremony and all alk will have had a familiar at least once in their lives.
Because of the connection between an alk and their familiar, familiars are seen as members of the tribe and killing one is considered a crime close in level to the murder of another alk.
Familiars are expected to learn from and help their “mentors” as any apprentice would.
Almost all alk are Star Seers. However, unlike regular Star Seers they believe in Zen’efay and Scara. They do not see these two as goddesses, however; but instead as warring spirits. They believe Zen’efay is a member of their family, as told in the Rendi Origin, and think that Scara betrayed them by harming her.
Alk are one of the rare races that dislike Scara. They believe that she’s a spirit who betrayed the Rendi sisters by almost killing Zen’efay when she tried to expose “The Goddess” as a non-deity, and alk are proud to be more loyal to their struggling harpy cousins than they are to a “faceless nurlak spirit.”
Accents tend to vary from alk to alk, depending on their country. Though their language is mostly the same, word-wise, many alk have trouble understanding each other if they come from different origins due to slang and pronunciation variations being very dramatic.
The written alk language tends to be done with symbols and pictures instead of letters and words. Many alk prefer their books to be wordless comics where the actions explain what dialogue cannot. Because of this the written language is used almost exclusively by their healers and leaders, with most other alk having no purpose for literacy.
Like their accents, alk laughter will depend on their country. Most alk laughs sound very casual, like a playful snicker, though some individuals have louder laughs that sound out of place.
Clothing and Armour
As a culture, alk don’t wear clothes. Only when alk live in other countries will they cover themselves; and usually this is done with a great amount of reluctance. They will gravitate towards loose, comfortable clothes that are easy to put on and take off.
They consider jewellery unnecessary embellishments that should only be worn if given as a gift from a Chosen, child, or sibling. But as jewellery is not the norm in their culture, it is rare to think of as a potential gift and even rarer to receive.
Rather than decorative jewellery, alk will add painted patterns alongside their tattoos during special occasions. Usually these paints are a bright, contrasting colour that stands out from their permanent ink.
Paint and Tattoos
Instead of clothing, alk cover themselves in tattoos. Many Sentient races find the complexity of these tattoos rather jarring, and in turn alk are turned off by more “plain” looking Sentients.
Alongside their body tattoos, alk will apply paints to their wings every day.
Before they come of age and graduate, alk apprentices wear paints mimicking the tattoos of their chosen professions, which they have to maintain throughout the day. This paint is usually mixed alongside the wing-paint used for their mentor’s wings.
Most tribes will have a specific colour that they use for their tattoos and paints; with the colours having significant meaning to the tribe’s history.
For short-lived tribes or tribes with no neighbours, they might use colours differently. Some tribes may use colours alongside tattoo patterns to show a tribe-members duties, while some may allow their members choose their favourite colours to be tattooed with upon graduation.
The tattoos of a warrior are designed to be “flashy,” in order to throw off opponents in battle. The placement of their tattoos represent both weakness and strength, and how both are interconnected deeply.
The circles-in-circles pattern is done to mimic eyes; as they are the protectors of the tribe they mark themselves with their watchful and aware natures.
It is said that the pattern of circles running from their chest to their wings is a representation of their tribe’s community, embracing them to the core of their heart. Though some disagree, and believe it represents loyalty instead of community.
The circular tattoo designs of a hunter are representative of the sun, the moons, and their territorial boundaries. This is directly reflecting their navigational duties.
The straight-line patterning and curves are said to show direction and wisdom, while the curved patterns show flexibility and the ability the embrace change.
The tattoo on the head is rarely seen, as after being tattooed an alk’s feathers will grow back and cover it, and most prefer not to shave their heads. Some, however, enjoy showing off their marks and will maintain baldness.
The tattoos of a gatherer represent variety, creativity, and life. Values they are expected to uphold in their duties as gatherers.
The mark on a gatherer’s forehead is a sign of thoughtfulness and forward-thinking, directly relating to their artistic natures and abilities to problem-solve.
The striped and circular patterns of a gatherer’s tattoos show decisiveness and flexibility, respectively. They must make decisions; but be adaptable when things go wrong in order to push forward.
A healer’s tattoos are all connected, as a visual representation of the body’s connections.
The tattoos of a healer are meant to be simple and calming, like the flow of the bathing rivers.
The points of their tattoos, however, represent the sharpness a healer must possess in order to care for their tribe-mates properly. They must be firm and pointed in order to keep the tribe healthy, making decisions they may seem harsh at times.
Asides from tattoos that show a alk’s duties to their tribe, there are also other tattoos and paints that may be worn to represent different things.
1. Disability Mark: Marking the top of the lip to the curve in the bridge of the nose, this tattoo indicates that the alk is disabled in some way. It is not a tattoo that an alk is forced to wear and being visibly marked is completely optional. However, living with a disability is seen as honourable in alk culture as it shows struggles that must be overcome, and so this tattoo is worn with pride similar to a warrior’s battle scars and rarely rejected.
2 & 3. Leader Mark: Running along the collar bone and with two “prongs” leading down towards the chest, this tattoo is only worn by an alk who is leading, or has previous lead, a tribe. The tattooing of this mark is a part of the leadership ceremony and is applied shortly after the marriage to the tribe’s Other. Upon a leader’s retirement, a third prong is added between the original two, to indicate that the alk is no longer actively leading their tribe.
4. Parent Mark: A simple, rounded-square shaped tattoo on the chin, this mark indicates that the alk is or has been a parent sometime in their life. These tattoos are given regardless of biological relation to their children; with alk who adopt receiving the tattoo, and alk who give away their newborns not.
Mark of Shame: The Mark of Shame is a painted line circling an alk’s chest, forcefully applied to those who are being banished from their tribe. It is also sometimes willingly worn by those seeking to make amends for past crimes and return to their home. This mark is especially upsetting for a warrior to receive, as it covers the tattoos representing their community, thus severing their bonds to their tribe and shaming the failed protector greatly.
6 & 7. Fertility Lines and Expectancy Dots: Fertility lines are two simple curved lines, painted on either side of the stomach of an alk who is attempting to conceive a child. This is worn by both of the attempting parents. After discovering they have conceived successfully, dots are painted on either side of the curves, to indicate that the parents are now expecting a child.
8. Apprentice Marks: Small marks painted on the end joints of the wings, apprentices wear these marks to indicate they have yet to graduate their training.
The alk hold is a fighting move created by the alk, and is used to restrain a person during battle. It is a simple enough move in theory, but can be extremely difficult to do in practice.
The alk being held is thrown down onto their stomach; as they are falling their wrists are gripped tightly and their arms lifted behind their back. The holding alk will stand on the held alk’s back, locking their feet into the joints between the shoulder blades and the wings. This causes great discomfort and makes the wing movements of the alk held sluggish and stiff; essentially disabling their most natural weapon.
The position the alk is left in leaves them short of breath from the weight of another person on their back, and the yanking of their arms can be extremely painful added on top of that. Because of this, the alk hold is often used as a “safe” torture method that doesn’t leave obvious marks on the victim.
The alk hold works on any Sentient with feathered wings and flexible front limbs, and sometimes will work on wingless Sentients such as humans or felinics. It doesn’t work very well on dassens, as many dassens will use their wings to push themselves to their feet instead of their arms, and shake off their attacker. Likewise, it is an absolutely useless technique against nurlak.
The alk are the only Rendi race without hollow bones.
Though not to the same extent as their avio cousins, alk are extremely talented at mimicking noises and animal calls. This is generally used in their hunting and scouting more than anything else, but is also used playfully by the young.
There is an old alk myth that if you are lost, you can find your way home by standing a stick into loose down and stomping until it falls; the way it falls with lead you home.
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