On average, Rhodris tend to be very large felines. They are best compared to the size of a liger in size. From head to tail, they are usually about 11 ft (2.74 m) long, and at adulthood they reach a range of 700-900 lbs (317-408 kg), with the males tending to be larger. The smaller sub-species, Elven Rhodris, are leaner and lighter, ranging at about 600 lbs (272 kg) on average.
The average and natural life span of a Rhodri is around 100-150 years. However, magic has often been used to lengthen their lives.
Rhodris, like many felines, are polyestrous, meaning they come into "heat" several times during the year, rather than only once during a certain breeding season. However, during the colder months when game is scarce (at least, for pre-agriculture Rhodris or those otherwise having to hunt for themselves), they will sometimes not ovulate as a way to prevent a pregnancy from occurring, an event that could be hazardous to the mother if occurring during lean times.
Unlike most non-intelligent species, Rhodris will mate not just for reproduction, but also for recreation. In fact, in later Rhodri society, many females will take preventative measures, such as herbs or potions with contraceptive qualities, to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
Typically, in opposite-sex pairings, mating is initiated by the male. However, in many areas of Rhodri society, the female can reject his advances and will incur few, if any, repercussions.
The female, if she conceives, typically gestates for around six months before giving birth to one to four cubs, the most common number being only one or two. Because Rhodris commonly form monogamous pair-bonds, the male commonly helps the female in raising her young. On average, it is not until the cub's twentieth year or so that it becomes sexually mature and starts the cycle once again.
The natural diet of Rhodris is the meat of small animals as well as large animals. They are also not averse to scavenging, if needed. While hunting for small animals, such as the tasy is usually done solo, hunting for larger animals such as the salarr and oka requires the cooperation of a group of Rhodris. One of the most common hunting techniques is positioning several Rhodris in an area upwind of the prey that provides for good hiding while one or two other Rhodris are used to drive the prey towards those waiting.
In more recent times, especially after the development of more permanent communities and the use of magic, Rhodris have also added fruits, vegetables, and various roots and nuts to their diet. As the use of magic increased, they developed more complex ways of preparing and consuming food, such as cooking and preserving.
Rhodris with wings is a rare mutation that occurs perhaps 1 in 1000. It is recessive and tends to run in families, usually amongst the upper class of Rhodris. Almost all Daenu, or royal, Rhodris have wings and it is a sign of their rank. They can vary between furred wings and furless wings, like those of bats.
Much more common are stunted, vestigial wings that are useless for flight. While wings in general are usually confined to the upper classes, it's a bit more common to see these smaller wings on lower ranking Rhodris. There are mixed feelings about them, as some Rhodris consider them to be a tie to higher ranks, while others consider them to be something to be ashamed of and may even go to the lengths of having them removed surgically. It often depends on the individual.
In general, Rhodris are a social species, often forming family groups. In early Rhodri society, these groups often grew into tribes of several related Rhodri families living together and sharing resources. While it is not common for tribes to accept outsiders indiscriminately, often tribes will accept others to join their group if they have something to offer the tribe as a whole (good hunting skills, strength to guard the camp, etc.) Generally, it is at the tribal chieftain's discretion.
Since the spread of magic in Aisling history, Rhodri tribes have grown into structured settlements rather than the traveling nomadic groups of the past. Instead of mainly living in caves or dens, Rhodris can now construct rustic buildings, often out of wood or dried clay. Outside of the Rhodri cities, technology is not terribly advanced beyond relatively simple things such as carts, small homes and meeting halls, agricultural instruments, and other such things.
Inside the cities, particularly the capital city, technology is much further along. While steam power is still far in their future (their current reliance on magic makes it unneeded), the city has large buildings (often several stories, but not much more than six or seven), carriages, sewers, aqueducts, and even flying chariots drawn by nuntaako, a large winged reptile. Rhodris have also domesticated several native animals, both as food and as pets.
The caste system grew out of the older tribal system, especially as Rhodris began to use magic and could afford to categorize their tribemates into differing groups. It began by simply assigning specific tasks to those most apt at them (those good at working became laborers, those good at protecting the village became guards, etc.) and grew into the rigid caste system they have today.
The caste system is a complex and deeply ingrained part of Rhodri culture. It developed soon after the Rhodris began worshiping their own deities, as each caste is tied to a specific patron deity. Casting not only determines daily activities, but it determines a Rhodri's career, social status, as well as who he/she can marry. The hierarchy is complex and consists of ranks that are sometimes above, equal to, or below other castes. Some castes even are on two levels, with there being upper level ranks and lower level ranks. In all, there are seven levels in the caste system and thirteen castes altogether.
Rhodris must marry within their caste or to another Rhodri in a caste of equal or lower level. When a male marries, his mate may become a part of his caste. This means that while a male may marry any female he chooses that is his caste or lower, a female must be careful of the kind of males she chooses because she may find herself a part of his caste for the rest of her life.
The castes are as follows:
Daenu - Royalty/dynasty
Eniar - Nobles/aristocracy
Rashkan - Law enforcement
Maraa - Beauty and breeding
Solu - Priests
Naroc - Warriors
Magouna - Healers
Famri - Artisans
Balma - Scientists and intellectuals
Dartay - Magicians and mediums
Shartan - Laborers and working class
Jarn - Slaves and involuntary labor
Groodun - Untouchables
The predominant Rhodri religion is tied very closely to their caste system. Each of the thirteen castes is headed by a patron deity that represents the caste as a whole. Though most Rhodris who follow the main religion worship Daenu, they also give special attention to the theological head of their castes.
In many cities and Rhodri settlements, there are Solu priests that will conduct religious services, lead religious festivals, and provide guidance and mentoring to those of their tribe or section of the city. Solu Rhodris are seen as being particularly close to the gods and are thought to be able to communicate with them directly.
Another sect of Rhodri religion, one that overlaps with the beliefs of several other species, holds that Aisling was created by goddess, often referred to as the Great Mother. Some Rhodri historians believe this was the original religion of Aisling and that all others branched off from this one, but there is still much speculation.
Elven Rhodri ReligionEdit
Elven Rhodris deviate from their cousins on several levels. Though not nearly as common as it was in the past, several groups of Elven Rhodris still practice an old form of necromancy and worship of the dead. Rhodris involved in this sect will craft masks from the skulls of dead animals. Whenever in public, especially in a religious setting, these Rhodris wear their masks as a way of being respectful to the spirits and also as a way of protecting themselves. It is common belief that if a spirit can see your face, then it can later identify you and possibly possess you. Not wearing a mask when communing with spirits is often seen as a form of blasphemy.
Those in this sect generally speak with the spirits for benign reasons. They may ask for guidance, approval on a new venture, or insight into a particular problem. However, a growing practice is communicating with the spirits of the dead as a way to extract information. Some necromancers have gone as far as temporarily resurrecting the dead to get the information or cooperation they need. This latter practice is forbidden by most sections of Elven Rhodri society and only undertaken by the most desperate or deviant. This practice is considered extremely dangerous, as angered or malevolent spirits have been known to kill or possess their necromancers.
Relations with Elven RhodrisEdit
Elven Rhodris are a subspecies of Rhodri that are generally slimmer and lighter built. While originally there was little conflict between the two subspecies, disagreements in Early Era Aisling caused the split between the two. In early Aisling history, shortly after the use of magic began to spread amongst Rhodris, a few tribes began putting walls around their settlements to try to keep out the Kyonshis and were no longer attending the assemblies amongst the tribes. Sivao, the Rhodri leader of the time, was against this idea because he felt it broke apart the unity between the Rhodri tribes that his ancestors had helped to establish. Kyonshis, wanting to foil the idea of protective walls keeping them out, planted seeds of dissension between the two subspecies that gradually grew into a civil war. Ever since the end of the civil war between the two (where no true winner was declared), Elven Rhodris were viewed with great distrust and even open hostility.
In modern Aisling, Elven Rhodris can be a part of large Rhodri settlements, but they are often excluded from the smaller villages and tribes. In cities, they are regularly discriminated against and the object of violence. While a few Elven Rhodris have managed to hold high positions in Rhodri society, this is exceedingly rare. Many Elven Rhodris have gravitated towards the sciences and thus surpassed their normal cousins, particularly in bio-technologies powered by magic. Prosthetics and resurrection are a few of the advances that Elven Rhodris have made and attempted to hide.
Relations with other intelligent speciesEdit
Rhodris and the Kyonshi species have almost always been natural enemies. Both being predators, each always considered the other to be competition and it was not uncommon for Rhodri tribes to chase away or even kill a Kyonshi found on their territory (or vice-versa).
In Early Era Aisling, Kyonshis instigated a war against the Nebulion species over the use of magic. Wishing to be rid of Kyonshis, the Rhodris allied with the Nebulions in the hopes of winning the war. However, after a series of events and unsuccessful battles caused the Nebulions to retreat to their floating city, out of reach of most other species, the Rhodris were left alone to fend for themselves against the Kyonshis. Fearing a continued war, Rhodris secretly drew up a pact with the Kyonshis. They promised to trade the lives of their criminals and terminally ill (since Kyonshis have become vampiric and desire the blood of intelligent species over all others) for the use of magic. Thus, Rhodris began to learn magic and how to manipulate it and create objects. The highest ranks of the Rhodri empire have kept this pact a complete secret, increasingly using secret police to silence, often by killing, anyone who could possibly spread the information. No common Rhodri knows of the Kyonshi pact and most Rhodris assume that their leaders are hard at work keeping the Kyonshis out of their settlements.
As a result of the war, Rhodris are also very mistrustful of Nebulions. Even though Nebulions rarely visit the other species of Aisling, there is a great deal of coldness and even hostility between the two. Though Nebulion/Rhodri hybrids do occur, they are often ostracized from society.
On the other hand, ever since learning magic, the Rhodris have conquered the Tarbhach species and completely enslaved it. They use the Tarbhach as they would domesticated animals, using them to work the fields and guard establishments. After many centuries of this treatment, most Rhodris regard Tarbhach on the same level as animals, even though the Tarbhach are sentient and can speak. Even the lowest ranked Rhodri ranks above the Tarbhach in terms of rights and treatment. Tarbhach and Rhodri hybrids are next to nonexistant, as such a pairing is viewed on both ends as an abomination.
Rhodris interact very little with Ko'Drho, as most Ko'Drho try to keep to themselves away from Rhodri attention. While Rhodris attempted to enslave the Ko'Drho, much as they did the Tarbhach, the Nebulions intervened on their behalf and forced the Rhodris to leave the Ko'Drho alone.