Weight: 150-300 lbs
Physical Description: Avans are tall, wingless, bipedal birds. Avans have a crest of wide, long feathers that extend from the upper-back of their skulls; these crests are mobile and can lay down against the neck, flare up, and contract or expand. Similarly, Avans are completely covered in bright plumage everywhere except their hands and shins, ankles, and taloned feet. The feathers on the outsides of their limbs, their sides, and their backs are tougher and almost appear glossy, an inch wide and a few inches long - the feathers elsewhere are softer, downier, and shorter. Avans have streamlined faces and rounded heads; their eyes are large, almond-shaped, and set shallowly. They have prominent, curving beaks reminiscent of hawks or eagles and no visible ears. Their necks tend to be thin and, in fact, their entire bodies are lengthy, lean, and generally skinny, though plump Avans do exist in the wealthier, safer cities. Avans have narrow shoulders and long arms; their feathers end at the wrist, their hands tough-skinned with pads on each of three long fingers and one thumb. Their hands are unretractably clawed, and their claws are hook-like and very sharp. Their torsos are lean, narrow, and not mammalian - Avans do not have breasts, since they lay eggs. Their hips are lean and thighs muscular but toned, rather than bulky, and they walk digitigrade. Their calves are feathered, but the feathering stops between calf and shin; their shins and feet are "scaled" with tough, ridged skin like an eagle's talons. Their feet are three-toed talons, with a fourth digit branching from the back of the foot, again like a bird's feet, and all digits are tipped in a heavy, curving, semi-sharp claw. Their long toes, which are traditionally bare, are surprisingly strong - an Avan has enough strength and dexterity in one foot to lift a small child with its foot alone. Avans do have feathered tails, only about two feet long and able to be fanned slightly. Avans have excellent sight and very good hearing, but unlike their ancient enemy, their sense of smell is so poor as to be nonexistent, and so many rely on a "sixth sense" of detecting magical energy (including a creature's life-force) instead.
Coloration: Avans are very brightly-colored, and they have at least two different colors - often three or four - in their plumage. Common colors are jewel-like shades, such as sapphire, ruby, emerald, amethyst, amber, and citrine; less common colors are duller or pastel versions of these vibrant colors, along with grey/silver, white, black, rust-red, and blue-green. Avan eyes tend to be blue, though green and violet are not uncommon. Claws on the feet are always black, whereas claws on the hands are typically translucent or ivory-colored. Avans do not have markings like spots or stripes; instead, their plumage is haphazardly mixed in regard to color. Avans who are primarily one color, with only a few patches of another color, are widely regarded as "special" in some way - either exceptionally skilled, or decidedly unlucky.
Clothing & Adornments: Avans are never seen without clothing, unlike Lupos and Panthera. While not in battle, nearly all Avans will dress in layered robes; the innermost layer is a very thin cloth garment that resembles a sleeveless tunic that extends to the knees, and over that is a lengthened vest made of light cloth that has a slit for the tail but extends to the knees as well, and over that are the traditional heavy silken robes, hood optional, that reach to the wrists and ankles. Most robes are left open, but are stitched so that the heavy fabric remains mostly-closed of its own accord, without need of a belt. Avans who are not permanent residents of a city - such as naturalists or soldiers - often forsake the outer robe and instead wear loose leggings, belted around their waists. Avan clothing is never close-fitted; the only exception to this rule is the thin cloth shirt and knee-length leggings that are worn beneath heavy armor, to prevent the chainmail or platemail from abrasing the skin and/or breaking feather shafts. Since Avan genitalia is not visible, even when completely undressed, young Avans are allowed to run about nude until a certain age, when they must start wearing kilts or short leggings. As a sophisticated people, Avans are extremely fond of jewelry and other physical decorations, though they have no piercings. Fine chains around the necks, hips, wrists, and ankles are very common, as are tiaras (from simplistic to gaudily complex) and rings. For all but the soldiers in Avanic armies, clothing modifications - images, symbols, or phrases - are common, either just "for fun" or for a mystical purpose, and tailoring is a prevalent hobby.
Movement & Battle: For all that they are exceedingly tall and long-limbed, Avans are not nearly so gawky as their build might suggest. Their walk is slow and stately, emphasized by the typical robes that nearly sweep the ground with each step; when running, they use their long legs to produce amazing bursts of speed (up to 28-30 mph - faster, then, than Panthera) and incredible leaps. Avans move like birds - swiftly, unpredictably, and jerkily - and are exceptionally dexterous and agile, able to dodge most blows. For all their flexibility, they almost never climb trees or cliffs unless absolutely necessary; the reason for this reluctance is unknown, but some suspect it to be a method of distancing themselves from nonsentient avians. When forced to fight unarmed, Avans prefer to keep their enemies away from them with strong kicks and slashes with their clawed toes; however, they are not above using the claws on their hands to fight, as well. Using their beaks, however sharp and curving, is considered a mark of savages - most civilized Avans would never think of doing such a thing, even in a life-and-death situation.
Social Groups: Avans live in large cities. Formally organized into these cities, the citizens can be broken down and subdivided into a member of any or several of a large number of groups, including a city guard (like a militia) that patrols the perimeter and streets, several factions (merchant's guild, farmers and foragers guild, etc), trades such as swordsmithing or tailoring, master rings (one ring per path per city; they include the trainers and elders, typically), and individual families. Normally participants in an intricate social web, Avans nearly always choose a path, but few reach mastery unless such is in high demand, preferring instead to interact with their fellow Avans within the safer bustle of the city. (Most masters who are not very old frequently make forays into the wilderness for various reasons, especially battle with the Lupos.) Cities are organized by a Council, made of anywhere from 10 to 20 individuals - usually masters, elders, or exceptional people who have proved their worth. The Council typically chooses its own members, but the people of the city are allowed to veto a choice by a majority vote. The Eye of the Council is the ambassador, not the "leader" - there is no one leader or figurehead, other than the Eye, and it has no special powers. Directly below the Council in rank are the law enforcement of the city - the guards - and then the master rings.
Ethnicities: Avans have no ethnicities. Though they can vary greatly in height and build, as well as coloration, these differences are not due to any particular ethnicity.
Daily Life: The daily life for Avans not involved in armies or the Elderwar is relatively sedate. Once they reach adolescence, they choose one of the four paths, and every other day has a lengthy lesson in that path, given by a member of the appropriate master ring. At any point before and during their young adulthood, they can choose one or two professions; they are trained by the experts in that profession's guild once or twice a week and given projects to take home or scrolls/books to study between lessons. Most Avans pride themselves on having many domestic skills; first aid (herbal remedies, bandages, and salves) and fine cooking, as well as gardening, are nearly universal skills that are picked up early in life. Avans live in multi-family buildings, normally with one family per floor (up to four floors, more often two or three), and have very amiable relations with those around them. Privacy is expected and respected, but so is courteousness and hospitality; most cities manage to combine these values into a smoothly-functional neighborhood attitude. Most Avan families have a garden or even an orchard to their name, and much of the day is spent outside, tending the flora. Avans do not have servants or slaves; the children of the family are taught to keep the family abode meticulously clean, and those families without children normally delegate the housekeeping to the youngest member (or, if it is only a single couple, they share the duties). Avans who are military, be they warriors or mages (scholars are not considered "military", being the strategists and the healers, and naturalists are rarely employed except as as-necessary scouts), have vastly different daily routines than citizens. Their time is filled with rigorous training and/or study, conferences with other military personnel to discuss upcoming moves, and the trek into the wilderness to battle various Lupos clans on wolf territory. Any master or adept in the warrior or mage path is able to be assigned to an army, and so those who want a peaceful mastery often choose to be scholars. Many Avan citizens never complete their path's training to mastery, instead reaching a point at which they are content with the knowledge and abilities, and simply not moving forward.
Technology: Avans do not use technology. For the most part, they dislike it, finding it annoying, messy, and unnecessary; all the same, they condone it for the sake of keeping neutrality with humans. The limit of Avanic technology is fine metal-working for weaponry, armor, and jewelry. They also have skilled, visionary architects and stonemasons who are capable of creating the amazing spires and multi-level buildings that are trademark of Avan cities. Their tailors and leatherworkers are very deft in creating a wide array of functional and aesthetically-pleasing clothing and light armor designs, as well as other furnishings, like door-hangings, tapestries, and furniture covers. (Most Avan furniture is made of heavy wood or a light stone, so they are normally cushioned and/or blanketed for comfort.)
Magic: Avans consider themselves the primary and most skilled magic-workers on Ykinde. Every kind of magical energy, except for soul-energy, can be tapped and used to fuel spells. Most of these kinds are based in the natural world: shadow, fire, ice, water, wind, earth, rock, tree, blood, bone, metal, light, and crystal. Everything that exists, both living and inanimate, has a pool of magical energy behind it that can be drawn out or supplemented to change it. Drawing fire energy from a torch into a block of ice will result in water, without the torch ever having to go near the ice; however, the torch would be extinguished in the process. Most spells involve the movement of magical energy from its natural home to another place. Pulling blood energy from an enemy's body can kill them if the spell is strong enough; infusing a magically-emptied crystal with sunlight energy will make it glow. Occasionally, spells will exchange energies equally, such as swapping the metal energy in a broken sword with the metal energy in a sturdy mace, thus repairing the sword but greatly weakening or outright destroying the mace.
Religion: Avans worship a faceless goddess whom they call Beauty. In the beginning, all that existed was chaos. Slowly, out of love for itself, the characteristics of beauty, perfection, and sensuality separated and condensed into what the Avans call a god. She called Herself Beauty, and she rose above the mire of unending potential and saw what could be, if only She shaped everything. Beauty created Ykinde from the want to have a place to make Beautiful, and She created the Avans as the first and best race, the finest and most intelligent, the most refined and the most Beautiful. She then placed Lupos and humans into Ykinde to illustrate how favored the Avans were. Flora and fauna were created to serve and to please the Avans, who, in their gratitude, strove to live Beautiful lives in the way of their faceless, formless goddess. The Avan people developed four paths, driven by this creation story: the scholars to study the past, the world, and themselves; the warriors to fight for their right to live Beautifully and to make bloodshed a finely-honed art; the mages to manipulate the magic Beauty placed in the world to their own superior ends; and the naturalists to tend to Beauty’s lesser creations - the birds and trees, the fish and beasts - and to preserve nature, if only so that nature may continue to serve and fulfill the Avans’ needs and whims. Avanic scholars believe that Beauty is the ultimate source of unrealized magical potential; all new souls come from Her, but they have always existed within Her, as parts of Her. No one can tap into the energy of Beauty to use it as magical fuel; She is the only "pool" of magic that cannot be touched. From Her comes soul-energy: the driving life-force that animates all living things.
Reproduction & Parenting: Two Avans who consider each other attractive and suitable mates will initiate a long, complex courtship that involves gifts, intellectual conversation, proof of ability to provide (either skill in a useful trade or a place in a trade guild), and a test of how compatible each other's families might be. After a year or more of courting one another, the pair will decide whether or not they wish to stay together long-term; Avans often mate for life, but a "marriage" is not a bond until death, but a mutual agreement to stay together as long as they are happy and healthy as a couple. Marriage can be easily dissolved if the pairing devolves into unhappiness or incompatibility, even after many years; generally, Avans will attempt to keep things working until any children are grown or at least adolescents. Same-sex marriage is quite uncommon, but it is simply viewed as a strange, but acceptable, choice. Not all Avan couples want children; there are herbal fertility suppressants for those who do not. Gestation is three to four months; the mother lays one to four eggs (most commonly two or three) in a carefully-prepared nest within the family abode and both parents tend the clutch fastidiously for another six weeks until the eggs hatch. Avan young are quite well-developed at birth and grow quickly, reaching adolescence at age 6 and adulthood at 9 (males) or 10 (females). Most Avans do not reproduce until they're 15 or older, more for the time-consuming process of selecting a mate than any physical restrictions. Avans do not raise their children communally, although close family often lends a hand, especially to young couples.
Warrior: Avan warriors are strictly-disciplined, physically-adept fighters whose combat abilities and military order are far superior to nearly any other Ykindean. All warriors are trained to be strong, swift, and very precise in their movements, as well as graceful and agile in battle. They are also intelligent individuals, studying the fighting arts with great devotion to technique and theory; most warriors emphasize a balance of body and mind, even in the heat of battle. The warrior path is not an easy or simplistic one - trainers demand physical perfection from their pupils, pushing young warriors through a rigorous regime of tests of endurance, firmness of limb, quickness of reflex, and resilience. Although armies are largely comprised of warriors, this is also the path with the most "drop-outs" - those who choose a different path after attempting and failing at warrior training. Warriors have three different specializations, and those who reach mastery in one of the three styles may focus on learning another style as a secondary skill. The three warrior paths are shield warrior (platemail armor, using a shield and a one-handed weapon, primarily for absorbing damage or protecting others), blade warrior (chainmail armor, using a two-handed blade or dual-wielding two blades - extremely good at dealing death and dodging), and fist warrior (unarmed, wearing only leather or heavy cloth, specializing in such mind-over-matter control that the only weapon they need is their own body). Shield warriors are often viewed as heroes, selfless fighters who risk life and limb during every fight to hold back the crush of the enemy and protect those weaker than they (like cloth-wearing mages). They are immensely strong and enduring, capable of ignoring great pain and fighting even when badly wounded; they often use a mace or an axe instead of a sword, simply to maximize the damage that their strength can cause. Blade warriors are deadly masters of their chosen weapons; although most blade warriors use a two-handed sword, a pair of swords, or two daggers, some dual-wield small axes or even choose a large war-axe as their primary weapon. Depending on their blade of choice, these warriors train themselves to dodge and strike swiftly (daggers), or move aggressively and relentlessly (axe). To keep themselves mobile, blade warriors do not wear the heavy platemail armor that shield warriors boast; instead, they are dressed in a combination of light chainmail and sturdy leather armor. Fist warriors are, admittedly, a minority, and most Avans, when they think of a warrior, do not picture an unarmed man or woman in a robe or simple leather armor. Few fist warriors are part of armies; they strive towards a sense of balance in all things, and to participate in an army would sway them too heavily towards violence and pain. Instead, they are often mentors and trainers of other warriors of all three types. Fist warriors emphasize mind-over-matter to such an extent that they feel they do not need armor or weapons to fight; they spend much of their days deep in meditation and prayer, and most of their exercises consist of slow, steady, graceful movements designed to hone muscle control and flexibility. However, when pressed, fist warriors are lightning-fast and amazingly precise in their attacks, utilizing punches, kicks, and leaps to keep themselves out of harm's way.
Mage: Mages are easily the most well-known magic-users on Ykinde, having brought the mystery and "art" of magic down to a fine science. Avanic mages study the rules of magic all their lives, undergoing never-ending training to prepare themselves to handle the strain of magic-use. As a result, they are the most efficient mages of all the races' magic-users, rarely suffering any negative effects unless forced to perform magic for prolonged periods of time without rest. They also know the many ways to avoid damage even then, instead expending the magical energy of the inanimate objects around them in order to protect their own soul-energy from the backlash of extensive magic-use. There are three "types" of Avan mage, but these "types" only indicate their core spells - mages can learn any 'type' of minor spell with sufficient studying, and most mages accumulate a repertoire of spells continuously over their lifetimes. The three mage types are chaos mage (causing widespread destruction through use of shadow-magic and fire), arrow mage (targeted, powerful magic directed at one person at a time, using light and ice), and shape mage (using wind and earth to transform the battlefield, or even enemy/ally bodies). Chaos mages are the ones most often in armies; although they tire quickly, they are able to command enough power to lay low a great deal of enemies at once and, if they conserve their strength, they are efficient co-killers, teaming up with warriors or other mages to damage the enemy enough so that their partner can finish it off. Chaos magic is not specific to one person and usually affects those nearby, though a skilled chaos mage will be able to avoid harming its allies. Arrow mages are the most common type of mage: precise, efficient, and strategic, they are capable of quickly killing particular targets and altering the flow of the battle. Adept at using ice to slow their enemies or shield themselves from physical attacks, arrow mages are often considered "assassin mages" for their ability to kill quickly at a distance, taking out an opposing Lupos leader or shaman before the battle is truly met, or removing a come-from-behind leader who rallies an almost-defeated enemy. Arrow mages do not have immense amounts of power, like chaos mages, but they can focus and control what power they do have to such an extent that they are just as deadly - only on a smaller, more personal scale. Shape mages are relatively rare, working with the "lesser" elements of wind and earth; they are often agriculturalists, helping terraform land gently to be more receptive to farms, orchards, or new settlements. Skilled shape mages are also capable of transforming the physical bodies of living creatures, including their allies or enemies - sometimes in small ways, such as weakening or strengthening the muscles and bones, and other times, they can completely transform a person from an Avan into a wolf or a Lupos into a harmless deer. The few shape mages that reach that kind of power are often used on smaller missions, where disabling an enemy or two might prove crucial to the group's health or success. Some shape mages seem closer to the natural world and spend time in gardens or forests, often working with naturalists to ensure that Beauty's lesser creations remain protected from the ravages of war.
Scholar: Scholars are the intellectual leaders and healers of the Avan people. While most scholars spend their times studying even more intently than Avan mages, analyzing and discussing a wide range of subjects (from battle to art to culture to language to science to ecology to etc), all scholars are trained to be medics and healers. Not only are they well-versed in anatomy and biology (and genetics, in the sense that they study what traits are passed down hereditarily), but scholars are also knowledgeable about the curative properties of herbs, foods, and salves. Scholars also have limited magical training in how to exchange health for sickness, pain for peace, thus moving an illness or wound to an enemy or the scholar itself or a nearby animal/plant, in order to heal and save lives. Scholars combine this medical magic with the power of their mind, which is so keen that most have learned how to psychically attack and defend. That said, scholars can choose one of three paths to follow, balancing medical knowledge with psychic ability: there are scholars of medicine (who almost solely focus on natural and magical healing, with only limited psychic skills), scholars of spirit (who balance psychic knowledge with magical healing, able to both strengthen their allies and weaken their enemies), and scholars of psyche (who, while they do know natural first aid, largely focus on psychic strength to attack enemies). Scholars of medicine are skilled enough to be able to magically heal very well and for prolonged periods of time, assuming they are not transferring the pain and wounds to themselves instead of a tree or animal. (Scholars consider it perfectly acceptable to move pain and injury to a nonsentient animal, since non-Avans are "lesser" creations of Beauty. That said, they do try not to kill things outright in the process.) Scholars of medicine are the "healers" on the field of battle, but they have very little psychic ability to do harm or deflect an attack, and so they are quite vulnerable if the battle isn't yet over. Scholars of spirit are the most common scholars and often the most valued on the field of battle; balancing psychic manipulation and strength with magical healing and first-aid, they can defend themselves with weak psychic attacks, heal with natural and magical means, strengthen their comrades with the right psychic nudging, and similarly weaken or disorient enemies briefly. They are very well-rounded and self-reliant, not needing as much protection during battle as scholars of medicine. Scholars of psyche know how to use herbs and salves, how to set a bone and stitch flesh together, but their healing magic is very limited, almost nonexistent. (They can numb pain, help clot blood, and boost the natural healing and immune system of an individual, but that's about it.) However, scholars of psyche are incredibly good at psychic manipulation (emboldening an ally and quickening its reflexes, or confusing/blinding/slowing an enemy), as well as outright attacks on an enemy's psyche that manifests as almost-physical damage. They are the only scholars who can kill with psychic damage alone, though it is not a quick or clean death. Scholars of psyche are not very common and are often used as personal assistants to great leaders, since they appear as helpless as a scholar of medicine, yet can act as a last line of defense in case of all else failing.
Naturalist: Naturalists are a marked minority in Avan culture. Typically the hunter-gatherer sort, naturalists are the cloaked men of the woods; these Avans consider it a solemn duty to preserve and protect Beauty's so-called lesser creations, the animals and plants that sustain life on Ykinde. They humbly participate in the predator-prey cycle, preferring to use a bow to bring down their targets efficiently, quickly, and relatively painlessly (conveniently keeping them away from the creature in question, just in case they miss). Naturalists are considered less noble than the other three paths, simply because they have no place in academies or armies, the two main pursuits of Avanic culture. Although naturalists can be trained in light chainmail, most prefer to wear leather, and many have a heavy, hooded cloak - of a different make than the robes worn by those in cities, this durable cloak is simultaneously armor, camouflage, and bedding for the night. Though most naturalists do carry some sort of blade, usually a small sword, a dirk, or a small axe, their primary weapon is a longbow or a crossbow, and many are proficient with a staff. All naturalists receive the training necessary to domesticate a wild animal enough that it will hunt alongside them and act as both a companion and a protector. There are three different types of naturalist; most follow one type, but have another type as a secondary specialty. The three types are steel naturalist (an arms-oriented naturalist who is as good a swordsman as an archer; most likely to wear chainmail and least likely to have and keep an animal companion), pack naturalist (beast-oriented, usually wears leather armor, often no cloak, and sometimes dual-wields blades), and primitive naturalists (combines the fist warrior style of unarmed fighting with fantastic archery; sometimes considered feral). Steel naturalists are the ones who still spend some time in cities, are the most related to the rest of their culture, and are generally the most socially-acceptable type of naturalists. They often, but not always, wear light chainmail along with sturdy leather armor, as well as the typical cloak, and instead of a staff, their weapons of choice are two small swords, two long daggers, a pair of fighting axes, or a large-ish axe (two-handed). Steel naturalists are skilled at melee combat, as well as long-range combat with their bows, and they usually function as providers for smaller cities or outposts; some few join armies as scouts and providers. They can but do not often tame animals to hunt with them, since they spend much of their time amongst their own people. Pack naturalists are very heavily animal-centric, honoring the creature they've tamed as an ambassador between themselves (and all Avans) and the beasts of Ykinde. They study the wildlife in all its aspects and report what they learn to scholars who focus on ecology and zoology, hoping to expand Avanic knowledge and also protect the beasts they study. Pack naturalists usually wear only leather armor, often without the cloak, and pride themselves on being able to blend into the wilderness seamlessly. They tend to dual-wield small blades - shortswords, dirks, or small hatchets/axes. Some few pack naturalists who master their path are granted the ability to shift into the same species as their animal companion; this magical ability is not taught by any master, but considered to be given by Beauty as a reward for the truly devoted. Primitive naturalists focus on the physical body, rather than weaponry (like steel naturalists) or other creatures (like pack naturalists). Though primitive naturalists can and do use longbows (nearly never crossbows), and many of them are capable of using a staff, they pride themselves on physical mastery and strength through natural means. They usually have animal companions and some consider these animals to be their own equals, rather than lesser beasts or something "domesticated". Using a similar system of fighting skills (but not training) to fist warriors, primitive naturalists hunt without melee weapons (and sometimes entirely unarmed), dressed only in rough leathers or plain cloth. They are alternately considered honorable, like fist warriors, or feral and thus disgraceful - the opinion is largely dependent on the individual naturalist. Many primitives do not interact with Avans inside city walls at all.