The Eight Sentient Species
***This page offers overviews of the eight sentient species, focusing on their defining characteristics, customs, and beliefs. More information will be added over time.***
The squirrel society is roughly based on that of Feudal-Era Japan. They are well-known for their courage, sense of honor, undying loyalty, and especially their unwavering stubbornness, even against impossible odds. Gender roles among the squirrels are rigidly defined. The males (or bucks) are typically recruited as samurai at a young age, and are expected to learn the virtues of warriors. By contrast, female squirrels (or does) are taught to value compassion, empathy, and motherhood above all else, with nearly all does strictly barred from participating in battle. Squirrels do not tolerate mages among their kind; their religion forbids the altering of the natural order by anything but divine intervention.
Squirrels developed the first spoken and written language in the island’s history, now known as “Old Standard”, and many places and objects still retain their names in this language. Squirrels were likewise the last to switch over to the rabbits’ New Standard, with many clans refusing to change at all.
THE SAMURAI DAIGUNDAN AND THE SHICHI MEIMON
The Samurai Daigundan (Old Standard: Samurai Great Army) is one of the three primary defense forces in the world. Always smaller in number than the Knights of the Silver Order or the Praetors, the Daigundan samurai make up for this by way of sheer tenacity and rigorous discipline; their ranks claim that fighting one well-trained samurai is equivalent to fighting three Knights, or a dozen or more armed civilians. The Daigundan is an organization steeped in tradition, being three hundred years older than the Order. A buck squirrel typically begins attending the Daigundan Gakuen training school after his thirteenth birthday, upon being given his first sword. Starting as a common foot-soldier (ashigaru, or a “sprig” in informal slang), the initial training stages teach not only the art of sword fighting, but also archery, tactics, chivalry and etiquette, calligraphy, poetry, and history. In each of these fields, the Seven Virtues of the Samurai (Loyalty, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor, and Justice) are stressed as critical to the development of a true warrior. After four years, the training is complete, and graduates will be assigned as retainers to a true samurai, who will become their lord and master until the samurai deems them ready. This relationship is symbolic of the samurai’s devotion to the Shogun. A retainer must protect his lord with his very life; in fact, dying in the service of one’s lord is seen as one of the highest of honors. The few who are deemed worthy eventually rise to become true samurai and join the Daigundan proper, seeing a large jump in social status and privilege as a result. However, even a true samurai is still a soldier, and must be ready at all times to step into battle alongside his brethren. It is in this regard that these samurai differ the most from the noblemen of Japanese history. While Japanese samurai typically worked alone and were trusted by their lords to enforce their own morals, these samurai are at their best in groups, and are slightly more equivalent to modern soldiers. Working as a cohesive unit, even a small squad of samurai can accomplish the impossible.
The Shichi Meimon (Old Standard: Seven Noble Families) are the main decision-makers of squirrel society: seven of the oldest lineages in all of the world. The head of each family has power and status unrivaled by any of his kind; even the greatest samurai bow their heads to the clan leaders. It is they who choose the squirrels’ Representative for the Magistrate by convening together in secret. The heads of the families also appoint the regents in charge of the various squirrel villages and the districts of Tachi-cho, the squirrels’ portion of Unify.
Foxes are the creative by nature. Extremely clever, outgoing, and artistic, foxes prize aesthetics and self-expression above anything else. They consider themselves the pinnacle of beauty and talent, which understandably paints them as extremely egotistical among the other species. Foxes are typically artists, authors, and musicians, but there have been a significant number of philosophers and humorists among the species as well. The “unique” fox sense of humor, in fact, is the one aspect of their culture which is almost never appreciated by the other species… in short, foxes consider themselves to be very funny, but they are largely alone in this opinion. Foxes are neutral in the debate over the use of magic. Males are called “todds” and females are “vixens”.
Foxes are also held with some disdain for appropriating many conventions of the other species’ cultures into their own; this practice has been in place for a long time, but is still considered theft by a sizable number.
The Guilds are the innumerable committees that govern fox society. There is a Guild for literally almost everything: the main Guilds of Law, Defense, Arts, Commerce, Agriculture, and Medicine are in turn divided into smaller Guilds focused on particular subjects. For example, the largest Guild is the Guild of Arts, which is divided into the Guild of Literature, the Guild of Music, the Guild of Visual Art, the Guild of Dance, and the Guild of Theater. Each Guild is then further divided into smaller Guilds. This system makes little sense to anyone outside of fox society, and tales abound of diplomats from other species becoming lost in an endless hell of being passed from Guild to Guild for weeks on end in search of the right person to resolve a particular issue. However, for all its flaws the system seems to work; it has kept the fox society not only functional but remarkably stable over the centuries.
Badgers are creatures of the mind and spirit. Though they are by far the largest of the eight species, they are also the most gentle; a defining edict in their worship of the Gods is a devotion to pacifism. Thus, they tend to focus exclusively on mental rather than physical development. Badger dens are typically stuffed to bursting with books and scrolls of all kinds. No subject is uninteresting to them, leading the badgers to take charge of recording and compiling history. Other popular topics of study are philosophy, the cultures and customs of other species, and works of speculative fiction. It was a badger named Hornbeam who first theorized about the possibility of intelligent life beyond the sea that surrounds the island, though his theories were controversial to say the least. Badgers have an innate connection with nature and name themselves after trees. Males are called “boars” and females are “willows”.
THE ELDER COUNCIL AND TRIALS
The Elder Council is a tribunal of sorts, composed of the wisest and most respected badgers. Despite its name, its members are not necessarily the oldest of the species; the name partially derives from an alternate spelling of “Alder” (see the Three Gods page). Badgers love to debate, so deciding issues can sometimes take weeks of the Council’s time. In order to make their meetings more efficient, a system called the Trials is invoked. Three badgers selected at random from the Council ranks. These three are each assigned a symbolic role of one of the Gods, after which they cover their faces and sit on carved pedestals high above the rest of the Council. No one of the three selected badgers knows the identity of the others, or which role they will be given beforehand, but the roles themselves are near-absolute: the representative of Lord Alder votes in favor of whatever is being debated, the representative of Black Cypress votes against, and Madam Willow’s role is to mediate between the two, ultimately deciding the issue’s outcome. While seen as stiflingly boring by most other species, settling arguments this way is very popular among the badgers, leading to mock Trials being performed throughout their society on topics ranging from inter-species politics to who is responsible for chores.
Rabbit society is modeled loosely on that of ancient Greece and Rome; they are the inventors and researchers of the world. Concrete evidence, logical thought, and scientific development are the cornerstones of their culture; they can come across as cold and aloof to outsiders. Due to the many uses of magic, technology and science have not been major focuses of development among the eight species, but what progress has been made in these fields has almost exclusively been made by rabbits. In terms of scientific intellect, rabbits are unmatched. They excel in creating medicines in particular, and unique among their kind is their credo to heal any injured sentient, regardless of species. The rabbit population is growing extremely quickly and requires many resources to sustain itself; as a result, rabbits conduct most of the island’s trade and commerce, and it is they who manage the island’s economy. The traditional leader of rabbitkind always takes the name “Legatus Maximus”. Males and females are “jackrabbits” and “jillrabbits”, respectively.
Rabbits developed the language now used throughout the majority of the island, New Standard. Much simpler than the complicated pictograms that the squirrels’ language used, New Standard was crafted from its inception to be usable by all species. Full conversion, however, will likely never happen; there is too much pride in the old ways.
The Praetors are the world’s third major defensive force, alongside the Samurai Daigundan and the Silver Order. The major difference from the latter two groups is that the Praetors are less an organized unit and more of a species-wide family tradition. Since rabbits typically have large families, it falls upon the oldest child in each family to serve as his clan’s protector and guardian. The jack or jillrabbit appointed to that role undergoes years of rigorous training from a former Praetor, under conditions that some other species look upon with great concern. No one can argue with the results, however: fully-trained Praetors are legendary for their endurance and ferocity. In effect, the rabbits do not need an army of samurai or an organization of knights for protection, for every household has an able-bodied protector on hand at all times… and given that the rabbit population outnumbers the other species almost three-to-one, lack of numbers is never a problem.
Ferrets pioneered the use of magic. Not only has their species produced more mages than any other, but the multiple varieties of enchanted objects (such as the versatile spellstones) owe their existence to ferretkind as well. Ferrets understandably use more magic than any other species; naturally, this leads to severe ideological conflicts with the squirrels in particular. Ferret Godlore is extraordinarily complex; their tales of the Three Gods are surprisingly ambiguous in their morals compared to those of the other races. This especially figures in their Death God, the Obsidian Demon. The Demon is said to have an influence in the life and growth of every living creature, and the Godlore tells of many who have fallen to this influence… and yet, the Demon is not seen as an inherently malicious entity, but a necessary part of the balance of nature. Because of their beliefs, ferrets tend to be very open-minded, some to the point of extreme gullibility or paranoia. Male ferrets are “hobferrets”, and females are “jillferrets”.
Among the sentient species, wolves are both the most unpopular and the most misunderstood. Wolves are nomadic wanderers, largely having abandoned their territory in Unify to roam endlessly in the mountain range to the north, their ancestral home. They are the only species who have completely retained their own language from the Lost Ages, thousands of years ago. Their culture is one steeped in ancient rites and ceremonies, revolving around the stars and celestial bodies. In lieu of clothing they paint tribal designs in their fur based on the constellations. Seen as savages by the other races, only the most “civilized” of wolves are permitted to live in Unify. A male wolf is known as a “brute”, while a female is a “fae”.
Completely unique among the sentients, the skunk society is matriarchal. Female skunks (“florises”, singular “floris”) are responsible for raising children, providing for their family’s health and safety, holding employment, making important decisions… essentially every important duty. The males (“florins”), by contrast, are largely kept out of sight and mind save for mating and breeding duties, with most not even allowed outside without wearing concealing robes. However, most florins are compensated for this inequality by living in great luxury. This separation of genders has an interesting side-effect: the vast majority of skunks are bisexual. Their unusual social structure comes from the skunks’ worship of three Goddesses, not three Gods. Also unique to their species is that among the three, their Goddess of Life is held high above the Goddesses of Time and Death. The ultimate extension of the species’ commitment to Life is the Silver Order, the world’s largest organized group. The Silver Order is a general peacekeeping force comprised of knights of all species. Created by the skunks and led for generations by daughters of the illustrious Argenteus House, Silver Order knights take an oath to protect life in all its forms, no matter the cost. In keeping with their beliefs on the sanctity of life, many skunk families own farms and make their living growing food for both themselves and the country’s population.
A puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, sealed inside an enigma. This is the only way to describe the raccoon species. A mere two hundred years after the Day of Three Gods, raccoon society withdrew entirely into itself, nearly all knowledge of their customs and beliefs vanishing overnight. Secrecy among raccoons comes before anything else; even their names are kept secret from everyone, including other members of their own kind. All raccoons refer to themselves only by code names… for one to reveal his or her true name is a sign of deepest intimacy. What little else is known about them is recounted here: Naturally, given their culture, raccoons are often hired as shinobi, spies, or assassins by other species when they wish to engage in shady dealings. The raccoon territory in Unify is completely closed off from the outside world save for a few well-hidden doors. Male raccoons are “clouds” and females are “mists”. And finally, only the name of the raccoons’ God of Death is known to outsiders; he is called The Unmarked. The names of their God of Time and Goddess of Life may never be revealed.
The above are the eight primary sentient species, but there is significant evidence pointing to at least two others that are now vanished. Also present is one sub-species, generally shunned and ignored by most of the populace. These species are recounted here. CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD.
The existence of this sub-species dates back to approximately Year 50. In those wild times before each species had laid out rules for their societies, wolves and foxes interbred freely. This practice was halted following Unify’s founding, and the small groups of wolfoxes slipped away into the wilderness, never to return to the city.
Today, the wolfoxes are seen as a disgrace by the fox species, considered a taint upon their “natural beauty”; “stain” is a common slur among foxkind. Most other species avoid them entirely whenever possible. They exist in small, traveling bands of musicians and mystics, never numbering more than a few hundred at a time. Wolfoxes have distinctive steel-blue fur (apparently a result of a genetic fluke) that identifies them immediately… Most of them choose to wear concealing cloaks on the rare occasions they venture inside Unify. It is unlikely that there are many “pure” wolfoxes left (meaning those with wolf and fox parents, rather than those bred among their own kind), as the Silver Order has banned crossmating and crossbreeding between not only among wolves and foxes, but among all species. The harshest of penalties are imposed upon those breaking this law. For their part, the wolfoxes seem resigned to their living on the fringes of society, surviving any way they can.
The existence of the spider known as N’Ktane (see Book I) has confirmed that spiders were once indeed a sentient race. How long ago this was and why they died out remains a mystery… N’Ktane was the only sentient spider ever encountered. The remaining arachnids, her children, almost appeared to be of a different, more primitive species altogether. These “drones” retain only primal instincts, and need the guiding psychic influence of their mother to function. It is possible that only a union between two sentient spiders can produce another of their kind… but as N’Ktane is now dead, this seems unlikely to happen.