Nine in Water, Many Beyond

In the tongue of the Karicarya, their world means 'Adoring Sunrise'. In the Saenoch's speech, it is 'Open Palm'. The name of this world is unknown as of this writing, but most other subjects...well, that's a different story.


14. Many Chances - The Tsalena

"Nine lives to live and the itty bitty Tsalena loses one of them in this rat-infested pit. Ha, it's like a tragedy! The great ranger of Kazidzo's badlands, running and climbing wild and free over the rocks and sand now stands caged in a stone tomb. Bet it's getting smaller, isn't it? Bet those walls are closing in on you. Well it's only gonna get worse, and all that fancy twisting and flipping your kind do won't get you out! Pretty soon you'll go mad, ranting and raving until the guards slit your throat just to make it stop! That's right, you're gonna die in here! Die!"

It's very easy to mistake them for a shadow during the day, drifting across the baked earth and red rocks of Kazidzo's badlands. Even the most observant adventurers can walk right past a tracking party of them and not realise they're being followed. During the day, Kazidzo's race hide away and the red rock badlands go quiet. At night however, both come alive.

The Tsalena are born for the night, and not just from their nocturnal tendencies. All Tsalena have varying shades of black skin - including brown-black, blue-black, red-black, and grey-black - with deep, piercing eyes, and athletic, slender frames. Similar to the Areadil, the Tsalena have some of the most varied colouration and adornments, though not from their creation. No, the nocturnal Tsalena see the source of their variety every time they look up.

Above the Nine Lands are thirteen major constellations, and each one watches over one of the thirteen months. All other races may see the constellation of their month as granting just a little blessing, curse, or quirk to their lives, but for the Tsalena, their appearance is guided by their Sun and Ascendant. There are multiple combinations of Sun and Ascendant signs, and no two Tsalena with the same combination look exactly alike, but here are just a few.

When the Demon rises during the Priest's month of the Twilight Slumber, Tsalena born have the sharpest contrasts. Their hair and eyes are a pale, silky gold - almost like a Karicarya's skin tone - with an inner radiance to it, giving them an angelic appearance. However they have four pairs of sharp, animalistic fangs set in their jaw, their nails are pointed and curl like claws, and their tongues are as black as coal.

When the Lovers rises during the Tree's month of the Growing Sun, Tsalena born are colourful and vibrant. Their eyes are forest green and flicker like dappled light between leaves, and their hair ranges from birch bark silver through oak leaf green to autumnal red. Their lips are full and red against their dark skin, their ring fingers are longer than their middle fingers, and the faster their heartbeat, the more their heart glows red in their chest.

When the Jewel rises during the Maiden's month of Pellen's Beauty, Tsalena born could pass for dark-skinned Nakleel. Their eyes vary between all pastel colours - from peach to lavender - and their white hair often has pink or peach roots, like the petals of some white flowers. Their skin has a kind of translucent shimmer to it in the colour of precious gems such as emerald and diamond, their irises seem like round cut diamonds, and the white tips of their fingernails and toenails seem almost transparent and glossy.

The Tsalena don't just owe their appearance to the stars and constellations. They owe their very lives, thanks to Kazidzo's wisdom.

When Kazidzo first created the Tsalena, she knew she was making them in defiance of Saenoch Tozahr, or Toa-Zahar in the Tsalena tongue, and their attack on the Land. Toa-Zahar was determined to strike out the ability for Kazidzo to create her own mortals, for in their eyes only one other race had earned the right to exist. Yet Kazidzo wasn't about to allow the Saenoch of Betrayal take command like that. She was going to make her mortals the longest existing ones on the Nine, even though their physical bodies couldn't handle it. Looking up at the stars above her, the Land took the essence of starlight and fused it into the first few Tsalena, creating a permanent link. Thanks to Kazidzo and the stars, a Tsalena lives nine lives.

Nine times over, a Tsalena enters and exits the world in a new body, but the soul remains the same and retains the same memories of their past lives. This has allowed the Tsalena to become expert problem solvers and critical thinkers, using their past lives' experiences as guidance. This can be particularly useful when roaming the red rock deserts and canyons of their native land. Even the younger Tsalena know from their previous lives to rotate their spine and land on their feet when leaping off certain ledges.

Even without past life guidance, Tsalena are expert acrobats. Being created from the flexible and resistant desert shrubbery allows them to twist and bend themselves in ways that the other races could only dream of. Give a Tsalena a short blade, pistol, or throwing weapons and they can shred an enemy to ribbons without touching the floor. Their agility and light feet make them into natural skirmishers on the battlefield, as well as spies and rogues behind enemy lines. Some of the more bigoted citizens of the Nine accuse all Tsalena of spying, but it's best not to pay them any attention.

They're the kind who also believe the race in the waters aren't fully sentient at all, and are no better than animals. Yet the ones in the water may have more humanity than any others...

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