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Xanth (photomanip by Liv?)

The Tanakheimein (pronounced as [TAN-ACK-HI-MINE]) were gods when the universe was just beginning.

That, at least, is the story they tell their children. They go on to explain with no small amount of awe that Abdiriz?, the Father of the entire Tanakheimein race, sprang out of Chaos at the dawn of time and went on to create the stars and planets now known as the Tanakheim Empire.

Physical Characteristics

Tanakheimein are shape-changers. They can appear humanoid or animal, and choose forms to suit occasions like humans wear clothes. They have favourite "characters" which become easier to don from familiarity, but their forms are limited only by their imagination.

In any form, however, a few things remain the same:

Aura
Each Tanakheimein has their own "aura", which in this instance means the colour of their "magic" and varies from person to person. Auras never change colour but shade and density are influenced by the individual's mood (so, for instance, an aura which is normally lilac will darken to purple in anger).
Racial Abilities
The Tanakheimein have a number of racial abilities, but access to these powers and the level of skill an individual can reach ultimately depends on their degree of descent and tier. Tanakheimein from upper tiers also gain powers that are unique to them in addition to their racial abilities.

When using powers, a Tanakheimein leaves traces of their aura behind. (Some Tanakheimein have learned to mask their aura, but it is never completely erased.) In this way, others can recognise who owns what and who has done what.

Tattoos
Tanakheimein track their family tree in the form of tattoo-like markings on their skin. Each relative is represented by a Tanakheimein symbol and moves location according to the bonds they share (for instance, a much-loved sister's symbol will be very near to the heart). Symbols fade, but never disappear completely, when a person dies. Likewise, new symbols appear (smaller than the rest but gradually increasing in size) when a new relative is born. Upper level individuals can mask their tattoos, effectively hiding their lineage.
Wings
The Tanakheimein have gossamer-like wings which are longer than the individual is tall while in their humanoid form. They are too delicate to enable normal flight (though Tanakheimein can use other powers to levitate or teleport) and are the same colour as the invididual's aura. Except for those of the Warrior Caste (whose wings are more solid and able to sustain real flight), the Tanakheimein can make these wings invisible to better suit the needs of their chosen form, but they are still present regardless. Higher-ranking Tanakheimein can also shift their wings to make them incorporeal.

Life Cycle

The Tanakheimein live excrutiatingly long lives, but are at least physically fully formed in just a millennia or two. (For example, Xanth, at 12,000-plus, is still barely a teenager even now, but fled her home when she was just 1200 years old.) If the stories they tell each other are to be believed, then individuals can live forever and frequently do.

Politics

Tanakheimein politics are chaotic at best, and their family tree reads more like the Greek pantheon than something a mortal can ever hope to comprehend. Tanakheimein mythology speaks of Abdiriz as being the "father of the entire race", and the nickname certainly does not appear to be much of a misnomer: Incestual marriages are common and he considers the entire female population to be his personal harem as soon as they come of age.

Whether because of their own nature, Abdiriz's tyranny, or just because individuals live such long lives, Tanakheimein society is rife with political intrigue. Even close relatives are not safe from The Father's wrath, and the Tanakheimein cosmos is a network of individual alliances and empires all sworn into his service.

The complexity is only exacerbated by the fact that Tanakheimein powers are reliant on just how much of Abdiriz's blood is present in any individual, which is referred to as the "degree of descent" (that is, the First Degree of Descent includes Abdiriz's biological children, who are known as the First Family, while the last Degree is the Warrior Caste).

Degrees of descent are further divided into "tiers" which rank an individual according to the usefulness and level of their powers. Each Family has at least two tiers, so even identical twins could be in separate tiers according to their abilities, while the Warrior Caste has only one.

Allies & Enemies

The Tanakeheim strive for political, military and individual power. This is at least in part an effort to overthrow Abdiriz, whose second nickname is "The Tyrant"1, but also because the males of the species are so ambitious. Trickier and more hardcore than Zanaryans, Tanakheimein spend a great deal of their long lives forging alliances (mostly through conquest but also through arranged marriages and double-dealing) that have only one purpose: To grant one individual enough power that he can "win the game" and ultimately overthrow Abdiriz.

However, not all of the politicking plays out between the Tanakheimein themselves. Warlords with the power to create and destroy planets2 often populate them with sentient creatures and pit them against one another for bragging rights, while others spend a lot of energy seeking the perfect organic "war machine". These creations are not normally viewed as anything more than tools, however, and are frequently obliterated to start anew with something tougher or more dangerous. (In this, Xanth has a unique fondness for her "children".)

Territories

Territory is important to the Tanakheimein because it is a symbol of their power and status. Those who do not have the ability to create their own realms must agree to serve someone who can, and their reward is a planet to lord over and do with as they will. The more planets an individual lords, the more respect they can command, which in turn affects the political deals they can make. However, a realm must be sustained by a continual feed of energy from its creator so it will always be the property of the Tanakheimein who created it. If they are not satisfied with the arrangement, they can easily take back ownership or even allow the realm to dissolve, meaning that a lord's status is tentative at best.

Tanakheimein territory extends throughout most of the known universe; there are just so many of them, and they are so territorial, that it would be impossible for them to remain within a small expanse. Abdiriz rules with an iron fist from his White Palace, which covers the entire surface of a small planet at very centre of the empire. (In order to escape his attention, Xanth was forced to leave her original galaxy and maintains her realms in secret. She created each of her realms in unnamed galaxies, separate from Earth, to minimise the damage if one was ever found.)

Culture

Tanakheimein women, though just as powerful as their men, are treated as little more than child-rearing commodities to be traded. Accustomed to their lot, and terrified of Abdiriz, most never question the decisions made for and about them. Of the few exceptions, only Xanth and her older sister, Aurorra?3, have survived to tell the tale.

Languages

Tanakheimein is the oldest language in the universe. Many of the sentient species created by Tanakheimein have attempted to learn it, but few have even come close to learning its complexities: The language is not only verbal, but incorporates body language, telepathy and empathic signals to communicate the entirety of an idea and the emotions attached to it. Mortals cannot hope to fathom the concepts and information the Tanakheimein share.

However, one of the racial abilities of the Tanakheimein is telepathy, but on a scale that enables them to invade a mind and take from it an entire language as needed, and their ability to change shape allows them to physically produce the necessary sounds. In this way, they can be fluent in anything.

Religion & Philosophy

The Tanakheimein believe that before the universe existed, there was only chaos. Abdiriz, the first of the Tanakheimein species, leaped from the black depths of the Great Chasm (chaos given physical form and personified as The Grandfather) fully formed. He lived alone for a time, with only the rumblings of the Grandfather for company. When he grew tired of this, he gathered the elements of the cosmos4 to create the first woman, and from her begot a harem from which every Tanakheimein descends.

Education

Males and females in the White Palace are raised and educated separately in communal "classes" and separate wings, even though they share meals together and are not forbidden from meeting recreationally. The women do the teaching for all but the Warrior Caste (who are essentially raised to be cannon fodder in service of the warlords).

Naming Conventions

Tanakheimein names are very short, usually only one syllable long. However, they always attach the suffix of their mother (for girls) or father (for boys) to delineate bloodlines and tier (for example, Xanthorra and Aurorra are the daughters of Ybdorra; Yaziz is the son of Abdiriz).

Footnotes

  1. All Tanakheimein are given a name based on their actions (eg. Dananka the Drunk or Evischoul the Vicious) but Abdiriz has several, the primaries being "The Father" and "The Tyrant".
  2. The creation and destruction of planets is a power only the First Family have. Those of the lower tier can only successfully maintain one planet at a time, since doing so takes a lot of their energy and attention (though some can create additional realms on a temporary basis), but those of the upper tier are capable of successfully maintaining more. The number they can sustain varies between individuals; Abdiriz himself maintains several solar systems without effort.
  3. Aurorra defied her father's decision to marry her off because she fell in love with a man from the Warrior Caste. She was already rebellious or would never have liaised with him in the first place, but when Abdiriz discovered their relationship, she tried to argue her case. Instead, she was stripped of her powers (effectively forcing her into the Warrior Caste herself) and her wings, and Evischoul was sent on a fruitless search for Xanth (effectively exiling him from his loved ones).
  4. The six elements of Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Shadow and Light are the building bricks that every Tanakheimein uses to create their planets, and any excess always clusters in some form or another (which is partly how Elysia's elementals came into existence). This is perhaps also the reason that species like Nymphs and Zanaryans, both created by a mixture of Xanth's own blood, have such an affinity for them.