(Music for the blizzards: one, two, three)

The Blizzard Gathering of Rinsei

Rinsei’s people split away from Auria long ago after tension reached a breaking point.  Those who deemed themselves Rinseians founded gatherings of people with strong ties to various natural phenomena; this was done in opposition to the Aurians who were believed to have weaker ties with nature compared to the Rinseians.  They may have originally been formed out of spite, but the Rinseian gatherings have remained intact to the modern day.

As time went on many of Rinsei’s gatherings became more loosely-defined in terms of customs and territory.  Mixing among gatherings and even with Aurians became commonplace and old traditions were slowly abandoned, even though most modern Rinseians still identify as members of a given gathering.  However, certain gatherings have remained more true to their roots even as others changed over time.  One gathering in particular has changed very little from generation to generation: the blizzard gathering.

The blizzards are best described as being proud, strict, honest people who follow rigid codes of conduct.  They consider themselves to be the purest of all Rinseians in that they do not mix with other gatherings and have retained old customs that date back to the group’s founding.  Blizzards care little for how other people perceive them, preferring to keep to themselves, but some of them have been critical of other Rinseian gatherings for letting go of long-standing traditions.  Likewise, to this day some blizzards have a disdain of Aurians.

Out of all of Rinsei’s gatherings, the blizzards have the most well-defined territories and they rarely get involved with other people unless they deem it necessary.  The gathering’s capitol, the Frost Shrine, is located on Winter Isle and the rest of the Northern Archipelago is also home to blizzard settlements.  The northwestern region of the Sluice Continent also contains many blizzard settlements.  Likewise, people of this gathering have distinct facial features due to the lack of mixing with outsiders.

Some Rinseians claim that the blizzard people are heartless brutes who would leave others for dead, but this is a poor stereotype that’s been perpetuated for years.  Although they generally aren’t known for being gentle or kind, blizzards have strong senses of honor and loyalty to one another.  Those who engage in betrayal or treason are met with no mercy and are considered traitors to the gathering as a whole.

As intimidating as the blizzards seem to outsiders they are far from being bad people and many of them have good hearts, even though it may not be obvious.

Retroviscera (Enanticephalus virosa)
A species of drika living on Lutam.  (Drikae are a kingdom of organisms who, through highly intricate epigenetic control, can alter the rigidity/general structure of their cells.  Physically they resemble very large arthropods, but on the biochemical level they are more akin to plants.  They also produce certain amino acids naturally that plants, animals, and fungi cannot.)
Retroviscera walk upon four spindly legs whose joints appear to be constructed in reverse when compared to many other creatures.  Rather than being used to walk, the two smaller legs positioned above the forelimbs are used to communicate with other individuals through various motions.  Along the “neck” are dozens of eyes, while the two white antennae sprouting from the hindlimbs detect smell and movement.
At first glance, a retroviscera’s mouth are presumably located at the monster’s front, while the “mouth” at the end of the tail isn’t a true mouth.  However, the exact opposite is true.  A retroviscera’s actual mouth is the large and disfigured one located behind the torso, at the start of the “tail,” while the opening at the top of the “neck” is best described as the hindgut.  The monster’s digestive system runs in reverse through the interior of the body, starting at the tail and ending at the head.  This bizarre anatomy benefits the retroviscera in that it downright confuses prey and predator both.
Finally, the retroviscera’s internal anatomy is unique in another aspect: its body uses the ammonia (a nitrogen source) produced as a waste product of normal protein metabolism together with several naturally biosynthesized compounds to synthesize potent toxins.  These toxins vary in how they attack other creatures - some attack the nervous system, others are simply corrosive - but all of them are secreted from the hindgut opening on the head.  Predators attempting to go for the retroviscera’s head instead are met with a cocktail of toxins.

Retroviscera (Enanticephalus virosa)

A species of drika living on Lutam.  (Drikae are a kingdom of organisms who, through highly intricate epigenetic control, can alter the rigidity/general structure of their cells.  Physically they resemble very large arthropods, but on the biochemical level they are more akin to plants.  They also produce certain amino acids naturally that plants, animals, and fungi cannot.)

Retroviscera walk upon four spindly legs whose joints appear to be constructed in reverse when compared to many other creatures.  Rather than being used to walk, the two smaller legs positioned above the forelimbs are used to communicate with other individuals through various motions.  Along the “neck” are dozens of eyes, while the two white antennae sprouting from the hindlimbs detect smell and movement.

At first glance, a retroviscera’s mouth are presumably located at the monster’s front, while the “mouth” at the end of the tail isn’t a true mouth.  However, the exact opposite is true.  A retroviscera’s actual mouth is the large and disfigured one located behind the torso, at the start of the “tail,” while the opening at the top of the “neck” is best described as the hindgut.  The monster’s digestive system runs in reverse through the interior of the body, starting at the tail and ending at the head.  This bizarre anatomy benefits the retroviscera in that it downright confuses prey and predator both.

Finally, the retroviscera’s internal anatomy is unique in another aspect: its body uses the ammonia (a nitrogen source) produced as a waste product of normal protein metabolism together with several naturally biosynthesized compounds to synthesize potent toxins.  These toxins vary in how they attack other creatures - some attack the nervous system, others are simply corrosive - but all of them are secreted from the hindgut opening on the head.  Predators attempting to go for the retroviscera’s head instead are met with a cocktail of toxins.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for Azu)
Azu the Aurian Blue
Azu is an Aurian blue and the dragon partner of Jericho Mikasi, a member of a mercenary group known as the Desert Wings.  While he is not much of a mercenary nowadays, Azu is still his loyal partner.  She’s more of a gentle giant than anything else.
Jericho and Azu’s first meeting was a chance encounter that occurred when Jericho was still a young teen.  Constant bullying from his older brothers, Felix and Alexander, drove him to such lengths that he ran away from home; it was then that he came across a lone dragon’s egg.  When the dragon hatched she became a close friend to Jericho, who named her Azu.
Azu is a female Aurian blue, one of Auria’s many dragon species.  Aurian dragons are distinguished from other large reptilians (such as wyverns) in that they have pouches; Aurian blues have pouches that allow them to breathe fire.  Male and female blues can be distinguished most easily by size: females such as Azu are larger than males.  Aurian blues are quite adaptable and can be found across Auria, but they prefer moist habitats.
(Artwork: colors by Casey, sketch and linework by Kali)

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for Azu)

Azu the Aurian Blue

Azu is an Aurian blue and the dragon partner of Jericho Mikasi, a member of a mercenary group known as the Desert Wings.  While he is not much of a mercenary nowadays, Azu is still his loyal partner.  She’s more of a gentle giant than anything else.

Jericho and Azu’s first meeting was a chance encounter that occurred when Jericho was still a young teen.  Constant bullying from his older brothers, Felix and Alexander, drove him to such lengths that he ran away from home; it was then that he came across a lone dragon’s egg.  When the dragon hatched she became a close friend to Jericho, who named her Azu.

Azu is a female Aurian blue, one of Auria’s many dragon species.  Aurian dragons are distinguished from other large reptilians (such as wyverns) in that they have pouches; Aurian blues have pouches that allow them to breathe fire.  Male and female blues can be distinguished most easily by size: females such as Azu are larger than males.  Aurian blues are quite adaptable and can be found across Auria, but they prefer moist habitats.

(Artwork: colors by Casey, sketch and linework by Kali)

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the white-sided dashers)
White-sided Dasher
This is a white-sided dasher, another Rinseian dragon species.  All Rinseian dragons are scaled (which is generally how they’re classified), and although the dasher and its relatives don’t seem to fit the bill at first they do have the scales: they’re so smooth and small that it’s very hard to see them without being very close to the animal.
This species makes its home along coastlines of several areas in the tropics, where it hunts smaller animals.  They are known to be quite violent and will just as easily attack humans if they see them.  They have muscular bodies and small, sharp talons suited for quick bursts of speed.  The body of a white-sided dasher is also incredibly flexible and their limbs are able to rotate in directions that aren’t possible for other animals.  This is an adaptation that allows for the dragon to escape from predators when caught by twisting around enough to flee.
Adult white-sided dashers are rarely seen without many scars crossing their bodies; males and females both engage in spars to establish dominance over each other.  Dashers sometimes prefer to hunt alone, but when they form packs the selection of an alpha has nothing to do with the dragon’s sex.  Males and females are similar in appearance and exhibit the same behaviors.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the white-sided dashers)

White-sided Dasher

This is a white-sided dasher, another Rinseian dragon species.  All Rinseian dragons are scaled (which is generally how they’re classified), and although the dasher and its relatives don’t seem to fit the bill at first they do have the scales: they’re so smooth and small that it’s very hard to see them without being very close to the animal.

This species makes its home along coastlines of several areas in the tropics, where it hunts smaller animals.  They are known to be quite violent and will just as easily attack humans if they see them.  They have muscular bodies and small, sharp talons suited for quick bursts of speed.  The body of a white-sided dasher is also incredibly flexible and their limbs are able to rotate in directions that aren’t possible for other animals.  This is an adaptation that allows for the dragon to escape from predators when caught by twisting around enough to flee.

Adult white-sided dashers are rarely seen without many scars crossing their bodies; males and females both engage in spars to establish dominance over each other.  Dashers sometimes prefer to hunt alone, but when they form packs the selection of an alpha has nothing to do with the dragon’s sex.  Males and females are similar in appearance and exhibit the same behaviors.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Rinseian lionserpent)
Rinseian Lionserpent
A Rinseian species of dragon that lives along the continental shelf off the coast of the Slunin Continent.  The lionserpent’s flamboyant appearance may at first be indicative of venom, but the toxins secreted by these animals are surprisingly weak and used only to stun prey.  However, this dragon should not be underestimated at any rate: lionserpents are among Rinsei’s most intelligent animals.  Their elongated bodies are well-muscled and capable of intricate motion thanks to the complex wiring of their brains.  A colossal amount of neural processing and coordination is required to maintain control of a lionserpent’s body, but these animals have prevailed.  Motor processing aside, lionserpents are also intelligent enough to have developed their own dialects and social structure.
Lionserpents generally range from 15 to 20 feet in length - females are slightly larger and bulkier - and feed on any animal they can overpower safely.  

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Rinseian lionserpent)

Rinseian Lionserpent

A Rinseian species of dragon that lives along the continental shelf off the coast of the Slunin Continent.  The lionserpent’s flamboyant appearance may at first be indicative of venom, but the toxins secreted by these animals are surprisingly weak and used only to stun prey.  However, this dragon should not be underestimated at any rate: lionserpents are among Rinsei’s most intelligent animals.  Their elongated bodies are well-muscled and capable of intricate motion thanks to the complex wiring of their brains.  A colossal amount of neural processing and coordination is required to maintain control of a lionserpent’s body, but these animals have prevailed.  Motor processing aside, lionserpents are also intelligent enough to have developed their own dialects and social structure.

Lionserpents generally range from 15 to 20 feet in length - females are slightly larger and bulkier - and feed on any animal they can overpower safely.  

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Suzaku wyverns)

Suzaku Wyvern (Zhuque eximia)

The Suzaku wyvern is a flightless dragon species of Lutam found in the south, among plateaus.  The red, orange, yellow, and peach markings along the body are controlled by a complex set of epistatic genes that can result in various color patterns. Females are slightly larger than males and have crests of feathers on their cheeks, but otherwise the two sexes are similar in appearance.  The main purpose of the dragon’s wings is for males to use them during their intricate courtship dances; the wings are far too small and poorly-muscled to be suitable for gliding, let alone flight.  These dances have inspired cultural dances in some southern cultures, ones that have persisted to the modern day.  Recent scientific studies are trying to pinpoint the precise epistatic genes involved in the wyvern’s complex hide pigmentation; further studies have been started to study the feather pigmentation, as well.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Soulvessels)
Soulvessel
The soul carriers of the Afterplane vary wildly in appearance, but none of them are able to leave the world of the dead.  The souls they collect are brought to them by soul ferries; these creatures can do what the soul carriers cannot and travel to the living world.  The Soulvessels stand among the Beholders and Deathwalkers as soul carriers.
Soulvessels store dead souls in the form of “soulsalve” within their bodies; the intense life energy emitted by the souls places great strain on the creature’s body and lends it its grotesque appearance.  Concentrated soulsalve is bright white in color, but lesser amounts appear crimson.
Unlike many soul carriers, Soulvessels only carry pure and innocent souls within their bodies.  This selectivity has given the Soulvessel something that makes it unique among the unliving: a conscience.  They are able to communicate with the souls of the Afterplane through thought, and the voiceless words that they speak with carry emotions of tenderness and warmth.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Soulvessels)

Soulvessel

The soul carriers of the Afterplane vary wildly in appearance, but none of them are able to leave the world of the dead.  The souls they collect are brought to them by soul ferries; these creatures can do what the soul carriers cannot and travel to the living world.  The Soulvessels stand among the Beholders and Deathwalkers as soul carriers.

Soulvessels store dead souls in the form of “soulsalve” within their bodies; the intense life energy emitted by the souls places great strain on the creature’s body and lends it its grotesque appearance.  Concentrated soulsalve is bright white in color, but lesser amounts appear crimson.

Unlike many soul carriers, Soulvessels only carry pure and innocent souls within their bodies.  This selectivity has given the Soulvessel something that makes it unique among the unliving: a conscience.  They are able to communicate with the souls of the Afterplane through thought, and the voiceless words that they speak with carry emotions of tenderness and warmth.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Deathwalkers)
Deathwalker
When a person dies, their soul is carried off into the Afterplane where it will rest for eternity.  Upon arrival in the Afterplane the souls of the dead are gathered within the bodies of soul carriers.
The dragon-like Deathwalker is among these soul carriers.  As natives of the Afterplane, they are neither living nor dead, and their only purpose is to carry dead souls to their final resting place.  As members of the unliving, they are fully incapable of entering the living world.  Deathwalkers meet with soul ferries such as aetherdragons - creatures that are able to transverse both life and death - and receive souls from them.
The “flames” rising from their talons consist of thousands upon thousands of souls; these flames are made of soulfire.  Dead souls in the living world are similar to microscopic particles of dust, invisible to the naked eye.  Upon reaching the Afterplane, however, these souls become alight and glow in vibrant colors.  Deathwalkers collect the souls with their sickle-shaped talons and ferry them.
The perceived scenery of the Afterplane may alter wildly between individuals - it takes on an appearance depending upon what a soul has witnessed in its living life - but the pitch-black forms of the Deathwalkers are among its few constants.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Deathwalkers)

Deathwalker

When a person dies, their soul is carried off into the Afterplane where it will rest for eternity.  Upon arrival in the Afterplane the souls of the dead are gathered within the bodies of soul carriers.

The dragon-like Deathwalker is among these soul carriers.  As natives of the Afterplane, they are neither living nor dead, and their only purpose is to carry dead souls to their final resting place.  As members of the unliving, they are fully incapable of entering the living world.  Deathwalkers meet with soul ferries such as aetherdragons - creatures that are able to transverse both life and death - and receive souls from them.

The “flames” rising from their talons consist of thousands upon thousands of souls; these flames are made of soulfire.  Dead souls in the living world are similar to microscopic particles of dust, invisible to the naked eye.  Upon reaching the Afterplane, however, these souls become alight and glow in vibrant colors.  Deathwalkers collect the souls with their sickle-shaped talons and ferry them.

The perceived scenery of the Afterplane may alter wildly between individuals - it takes on an appearance depending upon what a soul has witnessed in its living life - but the pitch-black forms of the Deathwalkers are among its few constants.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the aetherdragons)
Aetherdragon (Teledraco angelus)
The aetherdragons are a Rinseian species of dragon found only in the extreme north.  (This individual is named Angel.)
Little is known about the dragons because they are shy and reserved creatures who never draw close to human settlements.  The only report detailing a meeting with one of these dragons tells that although they are indeed very shy, they are also very gentle and unwilling to cause harm.
Due to this lack of solid knowledge, many theories exist regarding the aetherdragons.  Some believe that they are emissaries from a higher plane of existence who come to earth in order to collect souls to take to the Afterplane.  The tiny, glittering spheres around an aetherdragon’s neck are sometimes thought to be these souls in physical form.
The full truth about these dragons is that yes, they are messengers from the Afterplane who carry the souls of the recently deceased to their final resting place.  They are creatures who exist in limbo between living and unliving.  However, the aetherdragon’s beautiful and pastel-colored appearance changes entirely upon passing into the Afterplane.  An aetherdragon’s “true” appearance is that of a skeletal and bizarre entity that living souls wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the aetherdragons)

Aetherdragon (Teledraco angelus)

The aetherdragons are a Rinseian species of dragon found only in the extreme north.  (This individual is named Angel.)

Little is known about the dragons because they are shy and reserved creatures who never draw close to human settlements.  The only report detailing a meeting with one of these dragons tells that although they are indeed very shy, they are also very gentle and unwilling to cause harm.

Due to this lack of solid knowledge, many theories exist regarding the aetherdragons.  Some believe that they are emissaries from a higher plane of existence who come to earth in order to collect souls to take to the Afterplane.  The tiny, glittering spheres around an aetherdragon’s neck are sometimes thought to be these souls in physical form.

The full truth about these dragons is that yes, they are messengers from the Afterplane who carry the souls of the recently deceased to their final resting place.  They are creatures who exist in limbo between living and unliving.  However, the aetherdragon’s beautiful and pastel-colored appearance changes entirely upon passing into the Afterplane.  An aetherdragon’s “true” appearance is that of a skeletal and bizarre entity that living souls wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Beholders)
Beholder
Many bizarre entities inhabit the Afterplane, with the Beholders being just one among many.  They are soul carriers who hold souls unfit to roam the Afterplane freely within their bodies.
Although the life energy emitted by the souls they carry is immense, Beholders are far stronger than the impression that their frail bodies give and remain unaffected.  None of the souls that Beholders carry are able to escape, and for good reason.
Unlike other soul carriers, the Beholders have the task of collecting any recalcitrant souls and holding them captive within their bodies.  The Afterplane is looked after by creatures known as Susk, but while they can communicate with the souls of the dead they are unable to directly manipulate them.  The Beholders take orders from Susk to contain any departed souls that are disturbing the otherwise silent Afterplane.  These occurrences are few and far between, but the souls that are picked up by Beholders have very little chance of escaping.
The Beholders themselves do not communicate with dead souls, only with Susk.  The long red strings trailing out from within them act as wards to prevent the rebellious souls they hold from interfering with other souls.  Essentially, they’re the “soul police” of the Afterplane.

epigenomic:

(Music accompaniment for the Beholders)

Beholder

Many bizarre entities inhabit the Afterplane, with the Beholders being just one among many.  They are soul carriers who hold souls unfit to roam the Afterplane freely within their bodies.

Although the life energy emitted by the souls they carry is immense, Beholders are far stronger than the impression that their frail bodies give and remain unaffected.  None of the souls that Beholders carry are able to escape, and for good reason.

Unlike other soul carriers, the Beholders have the task of collecting any recalcitrant souls and holding them captive within their bodies.  The Afterplane is looked after by creatures known as Susk, but while they can communicate with the souls of the dead they are unable to directly manipulate them.  The Beholders take orders from Susk to contain any departed souls that are disturbing the otherwise silent Afterplane.  These occurrences are few and far between, but the souls that are picked up by Beholders have very little chance of escaping.

The Beholders themselves do not communicate with dead souls, only with Susk.  The long red strings trailing out from within them act as wards to prevent the rebellious souls they hold from interfering with other souls.  Essentially, they’re the “soul police” of the Afterplane.