I first came up with the Kai'us' when I was about 10 years old. They've been part of my life ever since. When I show people pictures I drew as an adult or explain parts of Kai'us culture they ask in amazement, "You came up with all that when you were ten?!"
The simple answer is no.
Kai'us' have grown up with me. Though their general appearance and the main themes of their society haven't changed much in all that time, they have matured and become more "realistic" and well-rounded. Nearly all my interests and things I do have something to do with development if Kai'us culture. It's my semi-closet obsession.
There's a lot to their culture that lives solely in my head. Though I have endless drawings as well as notebooks upon notebooks of story chucks and numerous drafts of a first Kai'us novel (called "The Kai'us Planet"), as well as a website to try to document all this (no, I'm not sharing the link; the website is awful), it still only scratches the surface of what lives in the three or so pounds of grey matter chilling in my skull.
Because I'm dragging my feet on getting the novel finished, I thought I'd share some non-spoiler stuff here to get more Kai'us-related things out in the the world and hopefully inspire people to relentlessly badger me to keep working on the book. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting bits and pieces of the Kai'us creation myths.
Okay, so first and foremost: what the heck is a Kai'us anyway?
A Kai'us is a humanoid being with a horse-like head. Their eyes face forward though and their muzzle is significantly shorter than a horse's. Their teeth are those of an omnivore (more so than humans). They have four digits on each hand - three fingers and a thumb. Their feet are blunt with four, stubby toes; the two center toes are larger than the two outer ones. They have a long tail with a tuft of hair at the end the same color as their mane. Their skin is dark grey typically, but they're covered in short, white fur. Because they're fur-covered, Kai'us' don't wear clothing; though those who live in colder regions will wear a belted poncho for warmth. They do like to decorate themselves though with creative braids, bracelets, necklaces, arm cuffs, etc. Typically any body and mane decorations show social status and/or one's trade.
Kai'us reproductive organs are all internal (even for the guys), and there's very little sexual dimorphism between genders; though males have thicker tails with more blood vessels (to keep those internal testes cool). Females have slightly wider hips than males, though their waists aren't nearly as narrow as human females. Females' breasts do swell when they're nursing, but any other time they look fairly androgynous.
There's eight different Kai'us races with their own physical characteristics that set them apart. For instance, Spider Kai'us' have four arms; they're also the tallest race, topping out at about six feet when full-grown. Winged Kai'us' are the smallest, barely breaking 4 and a half feet. They have (you guesses it!) wings. Think more bat-like than bird-like.
The different races can (kind of) interbreed, but in general it's rare since they tend to stick to their own kind. The genetics involved are fairly simple, but that's the stuff of another post. One race though: the Ka-Kiu (also called the People of the Whole) are actually not a genetically unique race, but rather any race can become Ka-Kiu by receiving a special mark (it's more complicated than that, but again that's a whole other write-up). The Ka-Kiu encourage intermarrying between races who join them so there's far more hybridization among them than any other race. Children born to Ka-Kiu parents though are without a doubt Ka-Kiu even without the mark (they receive that as part of their coming of age ceremony); therefore Ka-Kiu are indeed their own race.
Kai'us' range all over their planet, though each race lives in a specific region. The planet itself is far more dry than Earth - there's only one ocean that takes up about 35% of the planet's surface. The ocean and the rivers feeding it, as well as a vast mountain range that spans from one pole to the other located on the other side of the world from the ocean, splits the planet into four main regions that I call "Territories". The Spider, Cave and Ka-Kiu all live in the North-West Territory. The Winged live in the rain forests of the South-West Territory. The Crystal Kai'us' live along the ocean's coast in the South-East Territory. The Snake and Deer live in the North-East Territory. Lastly the Mountain Kai'us' live in, well, the mountains.
Though the Kai'us' within a particular region will have contact and trade with each other, there's very little contact (or sometimes even knowledge of) the other races outside of their part of the world, save for the Mountain Kai'us' who trade with everyone (except the Ka-Kiu <- no one likes them).
On the whole Kai'us' are a peaceful people. They're highly adaptable and readily adjust to whatever environment they settle in. If an area is lacking in necessary resources they'll either move somewhere more plentiful or trade for what they need.
Across the board Kai'us technology is around the late Stone Age, though some races dabble a little with metal. Most races have agriculture and live in villages of 75-150 individuals. Deer Kai'us' are the least advanced though and live simple, nomadic lives. They tend to live in much smaller groups. Mountain Kai'us' are semi-nomadic due to the seasonal changes where they live.
Many races live among semi-domesticated animals which are used for championship, pest-control, protection, beasts of burden, or travel. No animals are penned or captured for these purposes and they don't deliberately breed animals. All animals who live near Kai'us' or interact with them do so of their own volition. Meat and animal products are acquired exclusively through hunting and any prey animals that are felled in that process are greatly respected.
Despite their relative low technological status, Kai'us' have advanced metal abilities: telepathy, telekinesis and pyrokinesis. Their telepathic abilities more or less function similar to a walkie-talkie. One "tunes in" to the person they wish to communicate with. Physical contact strengths the "signal", distance weakens it. Though telepathy is developed in the womb, telekinesis and pyrokinesis must be learned, usually at around seven to ten years old.
Telepathy is a very important aspect of Kai'us life. Mates join together mentally and that's what triggers full sexual maturity. A person who's "mentally deaf" (unable to send or receive telepathic signals) is often shunned and not considered trustworthy.
Despite the fact that telepathic communication with those of other races is difficult, all Kai'us' share a subconscious telepathic bond that keeps their language and culture fairly consistent even with races on opposite sides of planet. Though there are certainly racial and regional dialects that can sometimes make verbal communication difficult. (Okay, it makes my life easier not having to track a bunch of different languages and writing systems!)
So that's the general gist of things without being too overwhelming (believe me, I can go on and on and on!). Before I dive into the actual creation myth (which will be next week's post), I wanted to also talk about "time" and "place" as it can get confusing when I talk to people about Kai'us'.
There's literally centuries of Kai'us history that I play in. I break time up on the Kai'us planet into four categories:
1) Old Tales
The stories I'll be posting in the coming weeks fall into this category.
These are ancient tales that have been passed down orally through the millennia. Though most Kai'us races to have both writing and math, these tales aren't typically written down as everyone knows them. They originate "before time" and are therefore timeless. They encompass the creation of the world and the first two Cataclysms.
2) Between the Second and Third Cataclysms
I consider this time to be Kai'us "prehistory". The planet the Kai'us' live on goes through periods of great geological instability every few million years. During that time the genetic structure of most creatures (not just Kai'us') becomes incredibly unstable and mutations reign supreme. As the world settles, so does everyone's DNA. The mutations best suited to survive in the new environment get to continue on, becoming increasingly stable. Once the dust settled from the Second Cataclysm and Kai'us' settled down into their current seven (later, eight) races, not much of note really happens. Kai'us society grows and develops as cultures of fresh, young sentient races do. I don't deal too much with this time in Kai'us history. It's just not terribly interesting as there's no wars or conquests to speak of; no subjugated people; no great tales of forbidden love.
3) The Third Cataclysm onward
This is where Kai'us history starts in my opinion. The Third Cataclysm isn't a geological event for a change, but rather an ideological one. This is when the Ka-Kiu come into being (they're a very new race). As a result of their creation, the first Grand Chief also comes into being. This is a really big deal in Kai'us history, affecting nearly every race on the planet. Marking time from this point on is easy: the Grand Chief holds their station for 100 years, at which time they pass their power and position off to their successor (it's okay that this doesn't make much sense, I'm being vague on purpose here).
4) "Modern History"
This is where "The Kai'us Planet" takes place. The eleventh Grand Chief is nearing the end of his "reign" at the start of the story and the twelfth Grand Chief is installed by the end. This period also encompasses all time and events after the book.
Now onto "place". The North-West Territory is the approximate origin of the Kai'us species and is where all the "Old" races come from. As mentioned earlier, this is where the Spider, Cave and Ka-Kiu presently live. This is important because, like I said before, not all races know about the others. In fact only the Grand Chief (who's a Spider Kai'us) and most of the Mountain Kai'us' know of the existence of all the races (they're also the only ones who know the world is round). Apart from the Ka-Kiu, all the "New" races live on the other side of the world. These tales are from the perspective of the "Old" races and don't mention the "New" races at all. The "New" races have very similar tales with slight variations that take into account vast migrations that don't affect the "Old" races at all.
Numbers are important to the Old races and knowing how all the races are numbered is important in understanding Kai'us mythology (the New races don't get as hung up on such things as their cultures are younger). Two, four, eight and sixteen are considered "good" numbers. Five is the worst number out there. The four Old races are associated with elements that also correlate with the first four gods (there's eight gods total by the way).
The Kia'us races by the numbers start with the Old races:
1) The Mountain (Earth)
2) The Winged (Air)
3) The Spider (Fire)
4) The Cave (Water)
The New races are:
5) The Ka-Kiu
6) The Crystal
7) The Snake
8) The Deer
The the Ka-Kiu are hands down the youngest race by a few hundred-thousand years, but they're always stuck in fifth place just to show how much everyone else doesn't like them (poor new kids; well they earned their place).
Next post will kick things off with the 1st part of the creation myth.