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They are errant thoughts of Terminus. Idle curiosity and intense desire made flesh. Awakened dreams forced into painful consciousness. The mind of the wanderer freed from the body. They are the alratheen.
Alratheen are literally the mind of Terminus. Their bodies are the neural structures of the sentient, slumbering plane. Birthed deep within the bowels of Terminus, the alratheen are the network that houses the consciousness of the plane.
Not all alratheen remain at the core of the plane. Some alratheen are created to perform specific tasks, such as the policing of other creatures found on Terminus or exploration of other planes. The purpose of other alratheen is less specific. These alratheen are physical manifestations of stray thoughts of Terminus.
The personality of alratheen can vary greatly depending on the reason for its existence. Alratheen created for a specific purpose are far more predictable than those created as whims of Terminus.
Alratheen created to police Terminus are exceedingly focused. Their devotion to the law is unquestionable. Mercy and compassion only come into play if warranted by the situation. To these alratheen, there is no gray, only what is best for Terminus. Residents of Terminus view these alratheen as heartless. For their part, the alratheen do not concern themselves with the opinions of other creatures. Their sole devotion is to Terminus. They are unobtrusive, remaining in the background. When called to action, however, they display unmatched aggression.
Alratheen created for exploration are much different. They are exceedingly curious, often times to the exclusion of their own safety. They possess a strong dedication to knowledge and discovery. As a side effect, these alratheen are generally regarded as the most affable members of the race. They truly enjoy the constant attention of other creatures.
The final group of alratheen are much more unpredictable. Their behavior is an extreme reflection of the thoughts of Terminus at the time of their creation. No consistency exists among members of this group.
Despite their differences, there are a few common threads found among all alratheen. Members of the race are not comfortable when forced into a solitary existence. They seek out other alratheen, but will settle for the companionship of other races. All alratheen also possess marked compulsive behaviors, whether directed towards the purpose of their creation or the overriding desires of Terminus at the time of creation.
On first contact with alratheen, many races mistakenly assume that they are a form of arachnids. This illusion is quickly dispelled as the truly alien nature of the alratheen becomes apparent.
Alratheen are initially small creatures, though they may become larger as they advance in power. On average, they stand 4 feet tall when assuming a bipedal stance. They normally weigh 30 pounds.
At the time of hatching, an alratheen is only a couple of inches in diameter. It quickly matures, however, reaching full maturity after a single year. An alratheen normally lives 50 years, though some may reach the century mark. Alratheen created for exploration normally have the shortest lifespans. In contrast, those created to police Terminus live the longest. Alratheen that are the result of a random thought of Terminus have much more erratic lifespans. Regardless of their purpose for existence, all alratheen have an instinctual need to return to the core of Terminus before dying.
Alratheen do not share a common heritage with any other creature. They are entirely the result of the lucid dreams of Terminus. Because of this, many of their features are unique. Alratheen are genderless. Their wiry, muscled bodies are hairless. No continuity exists in the color or sheen of alratheen flesh. An alratheen’s skin may be any color, and may demonstrate any pattern imaginable.
Two overly large orbs peer from an alratheen’s head. Despite their massive size, these eyes do not grant an alratheen any ocular benefits. An alratheen’s vision is comparable to that of the average human. The organs for sound are located in the soft, thin ridges that surround the eyes. Four serrated bony plates form the creature’s mandibles. The mouth is used for scent as well as taste. However, no speech organs are contained in the mouth, and alratheen are mute.
The most unusual feature of an alratheen’s head is the lack of a physical connection to the body. The head floats approximately three inches from the torso. The head does not maintain a fixed position or orientation, moving freely around the torso. All digestion of food is performed in organs contained in the head. The energy from this metabolism is transferred directly to the torso as bioelectric current. The faint smell of ozone and an almost imperceptible hum surrounds an alratheen while eating.
An alratheen’s torso is radially symmetrical. The torso is ringed by four limbs connected with ball-and-socket joints. The limbs may be used as either arms or legs. An alratheen can stand using any number of the limbs, but can only move while using two or more of the limbs. The limbs are composed of three segments of equal length, each joined with ball-and-socket joints. The limbs join with appendages similar in form to the torso. Each of these appendages has four digits spaced equidistantly. Each digit also contains three segments of equal length joined with ball-and socket joints. At the end of each digit are four small nubs. The unique structure of an alratheen’s limbs grants almost unlimited flexibility.
Alratheen are genderless. They possess no means for reproduction. Alratheen are created by Terminus in egg chambers found in the core of Terminus. Broods of alratheen are large, and are constantly being spawned.
The musculature of an alratheen is unique because it also serves as a neural structure. Alratheen compose the conscious portion of Terminus, joining into a massive neural structure within the core of Terminus. At death, an alratheen’s body calcifies. Despite this calcification, the body is still able to transmit neural impulses. The bodies of dead alratheen are incorporated into the core of Terminus, the knowledge contained at the time of death becoming part of the greater awareness of Terminus.
Alratheen living in the core of Terminus do not wear any form of clothing or equipment. Those existing outside of the core adopt a clothing style appropriate to their lifestyle. Alratheen must wear custom fitted clothing and armor to make full use of their flexibility. An alratheen is capable of contorting its body to use armor and clothing created for other races, but the benefit of its flexibility is greatly reduced.
Alratheen society is markedly different from other cultures. They do not form the family units, secret societies or empires common among other cultures. Because of their unique nature as part of a larger whole, there is no warfare or widespread violence among the alratheen. Personal glory and wealth do not hold sway among the alratheen. All that is needed is provided by Terminus. All that is left behind after death is passed on indiscriminately to other members of the race.
Most of the culture never experiences the greater whole of Terminus beyond the core. The sole purpose of this segment of the population is the continued functioning of Terminus and the assimilation of knowledge from the dead. These alratheen have an egalitarian existence. There is no stratification or differentiation.
In contrast, alratheen created to police Terminus have many degrees of differentiation. Complex layers of command exist. Promotion through the ranks is based on skill and merit, not politics. Alratheen are unable to hide the truth from one another, preventing the maneuvering seen in other highly stratified cultures.
Alratheen created to explore are regarded highly by other alratheen. Their purpose is seen as the expansion of Terminus, and they are viewed as leaders of the race. As such, they are protected by other alratheen whenever possible. These alratheen have much shorter lives than others of the race, returning to the core before death if possible.
Those alratheen who do not have a clearly defined purpose are regarded as aberrant by other members of the race. They are outsiders in the closely-knit alratheen culture. Their actions are constantly scrutinized and they are often objects of persecution.
The final fate of all alratheen is the same. As an alratheen’s life draws to a close, the alratheen has an instinctual need to return to the core where it will become a part of the physical structure of the core of Terminus. Even alratheen not created for a specific purpose feel this undeniable pull. A special group of alratheen exists to retrieve the bodies of those alratheen unable to return to the core before expiring. These alratheen are tireless hunters who brook no interference when retrieving the bodies of fallen alratheen.
Relations with Other Races
Alratheen created for a specific purpose approach other races from the focus of their creation. All of their actions are guided by the purpose for their creation. Alratheen intended to police the population of Terminus approach other races as a gardener might approach plants, carefully controlling the growth of different enclaves while casually removing threats. Those created for exploration more often take a personal interest in members of other races, though this interest may be simple scientific curiosity. Those alratheen spawned by random thoughts are much less predictable in their attitude towards other races. These alratheen are as just as likely to be overly aggressive as they are to be benign.
On first encountering an alratheen, other races usually mistake the race for arachnids. This impression colors the experience with racial approaches to dealing with such creatures. Even after the mistake has been discovered, the potentially alien behavior of alratheen can adversely affect relations.
Races that reside on Terminus understand the role of alratheen in policing the plane. Few of these races are aware of the deeper nature of the relationship between the plane and the alratheen. Those who do commonly attempt to forge alliances with the alratheen. Some of the more malevolent races living on Terminus may even attempt to control alratheen in an attempt to exert some control over the plane.
Alratheen are an integral part of Terminus. Their largest numbers are housed deep within the core of the Terminus. These alratheen are tied more closely to one another than the alratheen normally seen by other races. Entrance to the core is heavily protected by hordes of powerful beasts, some of which only have a place in the dreaming mind of Terminus. Even the mightiest of dragons pale in comparison to many of these creatures. The area is also warded against all forms of scrying and teleportation. This region is truly the mind of Terminus.
Most alratheen not found within the core may be found anywhere in Terminus. In general, alratheen form together in groups. They do not create monumental architectural works, preferring to remain unobtrusive but ubiquitous. Their continual presence is accepted as an inescapable part of life on Terminus.
Those alratheen that live beyond the boundaries of Terminus are normally found in regions containing large population centers. This is true for both those carrying out explicit quests for Terminus and for the freer members of the race. Alratheen in these regions naturally gravitate to one another, dwelling in large structures with few internal walls.
Alratheen created for a specific purpose follow that purpose without fail. These alratheen possess a lawful bent seen in few other creatures. Their only goal in life is to fulfill their purpose for creation. The other alratheen who are spawned randomly are far less predictable. Though some may be lawful, most favor personal freedom in their endeavors.
Alratheen exerting the will of Terminus make no distinction between good and evil. Though they are acutely aware of the difference, neither case guides their actions. All that matters is the will of Terminus. Alratheen embodying a desire or whim of Terminus, however, find the relationship between good and evil at the center of many of their actions. These alratheen are normally strongly aligned in one direction or the other, though a few demonstrate neutrality.
Despite being sentient, alratheen do not possess the capacity to truly practice religion. Even those alratheen spawned as a momentary thought are not fully independent from the greater whole of Terminus. They do not possess souls, merely shards of consciousness granted by Terminus. As a result, their worship would not increase the power of other deities. Because of this, deities from other pantheons shun any attempts at worship by alratheen. Though an alratheen may receive the benefits of divine spells freely, they can never draw on the divine power of other deities.
Even with the restrictions on worship incurred, an alratheen does have access to a very potent source of divine power: Terminus. Terminus readily emulates the divine portfolios of deities. This emulation is not limited to a subset of available domains. Alratheen clerics are able to advance in divine classes by drawing on the raw might of Terminus. An alratheen cleric must choose a particular domain just as any other cleric would, but the alratheen can choose this initial domain from any domain. Although mute, alratheen divine casters can cast divine spells with verbal components without speaking. This ability only functions while on Terminus. If on another plane, the alratheen must speak the spell normally. An alratheen never requires a divine focus for spell casting. Instead, the alratheen’s body functions as a divine focus. Alratheen clerics do not possess a religious agenda or holy mandates. Their clerical powers are merely a function of their unique existence.
The emulation of other portfolios by Terminus often results in alratheen clerics, and other alratheen divine casters to a lesser degree, being targeted by zealots when on other planes. Conversely, the presence of alratheen clerics on other planes has spawned rebellion against many ruling pantheons. In these cultures, the alratheen have been seen as harbingers of change.
Alratheen do not possess a native language. Their nature allows immediate communication between members of the race. This communication requires physical contact. No words are exchanged during such an encounter. Concepts and ideas are transmitted directly, though the intelligence and perceptions of the sender and receiver still limit the communication, just as in verbal speech. Additionally, this form of communication was never a cause for the creation of written communication. An alratheen is able to use this form of communication with any willing creature that shares a known language with the alratheen. The alratheen may also attempt to communicate in this fashion with an unwilling receiver, though the receiver may resist.
Despite the lack of a native language, alratheen are capable of learning other languages. All alratheen know Common. Alratheen readily learn other language through exposure. The alratheen can understand spoken and written words in the language. However, the anatomical structure of the race prevents speech through normal means. An alratheen must find other resources if it wishes to verbally communicate.
In their natural environment, alratheen have no need for names. Though they accept the presence of intrinsic differences between one another, these differentiations are considered too minor to acknowledge. Alratheen only adopt naming conventions when dealing with other races.
Alratheen created for a specific purpose choose a name related directly to their purpose. Once chosen, the alratheen never changes the name. Alratheen not charged with a specific task choose names based on their compulsions. Since the primary compulsion does not change, the name is normally static. On rare occasions, however, the compulsion may dictate frequent name changes.
Alratheen Names: Guardian of the Crimson Pass, Seeker of Red Dragon’s Truth, Memory of Flight
Most alratheen never leave the core of Terminus, much less become adventurers. Their lives are consumed with the thought processes of Terminus. Despite this, all alratheen possess a degree of martial and psionic skill. Those alratheen who journey beyond the core are adventurers by their very nature, drawing on and enhancing their natural abilities.
Most alratheen encountered, whether devoted to a specific purpose or merely a passing whim of Terminus, possess a few levels in the psychic warrior class. The class utilizes the optimal mixture of an alratheen’s physical and mental faculties. An alratheen may also deign to follow the path of the pure psion. These alratheen traditionally focus on powers from the telepathy and clairsentience disciplines. A few alratheen are created to be soulknives. These alratheen are found almost exclusively among the ranks of alratheen tasked with policing the plane. Most rare among psionic alratheen are wilders. Wilders are never created for a specific purpose, instead experiencing more personal freedom than the majority of alratheen.
Alratheen are adept at exercising martial skill. They easily step into the role of fighters. These warriors prefer to use weapons that benefit from an alratheen’s natural dexterity. Ranged weapons are a favorite, as well as spiked chains. All alratheen, not just fighters, are familiar with spiked chains. Given that alratheen are not able to reproduce, they never form the tribal structures that most often spawn barbarians. Consequently, alratheen are never members of this class. Alratheen are routinely found leading the cadres of alratheen responsible for policing the plane. These paladins make use of a wide range of mounts beyond the typical horses favored by most paladins. Alratheen rangers are most common among the members of the race created for exploring other planes. These rangers are tasked with tracking down specific creature types. On Terminus, these alratheen operate independently to hunt down creatures that pose an immediate threat to the plane. Alratheen who decide to become monks do so exclusively beyond the boundaries of Terminus. These alratheen are always the result of a random thought by Terminus and are very rare.
Divine casters among the alratheen draw directly on the power of Terminus that flows through them. An alratheen cleric may choose any domain as their primary domain. Their body acts as a divine focus. They can cast divine spells with verbal components without speaking while on Terminus. Beyond Terminus, they must find a way to vocalize the verbal components of spells. Though less common, alratheen druids are a potent force on Terminus. As part of the plane, they maintain a closer connection to their natural world than is available to druids of other races. Alratheen druids are never able to use their abilities on other planes because they have no connection to nature beyond Terminus.
With their natural flexibility, alratheen are well adapted to the roguish lifestyle. No alratheen is created specifically for this path. All alratheen rogues are the result of random creation. Because of their inability to vocalize sounds, alratheen never become bards.
Arcane spellcasters are the rarest of all alratheen adventurers. The inability to vocalize sounds makes the normal casting of spells difficult. Arcane alratheen must resort to silent spellcasting means, such as the use of runes. The physical toll taken on an alratheen’s body is also a deterrent to following an arcane path. Arcane alratheen are never sorcerers due to the lack of a family bloodline. They are always wizards.