Saved by the Ritual
There is a form of transmutation that humans can undergo turning them into dwarfs. The dwarves are just as varied as their human base, further blessed with long life. Due to decades of exposure to viiz, dwarfs mastered their personal viiz store and are able to use it for protection.
The ancestors of the hilada were humans that followed the hokhala forest. Tired of a nomadic existence, they chose to settle on the cold prairie at the south of Barshiin. This land had little to offer it – so cold in the winter that the rivers froze, and with few native plants that were edible. They used seeds they brought with them to adapt crops to this new land.
As they settled, they found they had little to export except knowledge and education, and slowly they transformed themselves into a scholarly nation. Yet, Tokir’s history became dominated by the fear of a child born mad – a malady that the humans brought with them. The Tokir Psychosis, as it became known, quickly grew. Its victims were unable to live independently and became a growing drain on the population.
The king at the time saw that if this continued they would not be able to produce enough food. Which is why he listened to a wizard named Nyth, who suggested turning the inflicted into mindless undead. The next king was more humane – and he tried to put a stop to it, but it was too late. The practice had spread and even with Nyth hunting down the rogue necromancers, it was (and perhaps still is) happening in odd corners of the kingdom.
Enter Arille, who thought he had an idea to improve the ritual used to convert the mad. Instead of becoming mindless undead, they became viiz-less beings who lost most of their memory – but also their madness.
This was the birth of the hilada.
Not quite undead, the hilada were created by draining their viiz – and thus must continue to do so or they will slowly return to life (and to madness). But they took part in every aspect of life except the production of children. Hilada tend to became scholars – taking advantage of less need for rest or sustenance to get great works done.
The ritual was kept closely guarded – and after a cataclysm was lost by a number of Tokir communities. However, Arille (now a demi-god) eventually worked out how to extend the ritual to other sentient races – meaning not every hilada would be human.
Now, the hilada ritual may be performed on the incurably mad of all races – of course, children have to be raised to adulthood first. In some cases it has also been done to notable scholars who were at the end of their lives to allow them to finish their work – it appears that those who are mentally healthy when they undergo the ritual experience much less memory loss. The hilada welcome those who need their help.
Hilada are neither alive in the true sense, nor are they undead. Physically, they resemble the person they were in life, but with a grayish cast to their skin and commonly white hair (if they have hair — the very rare hilada kashaan is pure white with a subtle gray cast to their scales). The hilada are also distinguished by the hint of ghostly flames that sometimes appear around them, particularly if they are using an ability to burn off excess viiz.
Hilada do not need to eat and drink but are capable of doing so in a pinch. Any food they consume is wasted, so they will generally refuse offers of sustenance and suggest that the person keep what they need for themselves. They also do not need to sleep but require four hours of meditative rest out of each 24, which need not be consecutive, although more than two hours wakefulness will disrupt their rest. Not getting enough has similar effects on sleep deprivation. Hilada cannot reproduce — they cannot sire or bear children, but must increase their numbers by converting others. Thankfully, they also seem to lose the desire to do so (although some hilada do, indeed, choose to adopt).
They also do not age. Most hilada look to be in their early twenties, except those who were converted older. In general, they resemble the age they were when they underwent the ritual. An “elderly” hilada, thus, is one who underwent the ritual as an old person, often to preserve a valued mind from age-related decline or death. Hilada no longer suffer from any ailments, physical or mental, they may have experienced while alive. They do feel pain if wounded, however. Also, it is possible for a hilada to be physically maimed – they do not grow back lost limbs or eyes. However, they do not catch normal, non-magical diseases.
Hilada who do not burn off their viiz suffer from viiz poisoning. The nature of the world is such that their unviized state is not stable and “wants” to return to its original condition. They generally have to do something, such as the censor ability, to burn personal viiz at least once a week. If they do not, they will get viiz poisoning and slowly return to their previous living state. If they do so, they will return to the state they were in when they underwent the ritual, with any age-related problems, insanity or disease in place. It would require a repeat of the ritual to return them to being hilada – and this is generally not successful.
Mentally, hilada have extremely clear minds – they are not affected by hormonal fluxes and other things which can negatively affect the living. This frees them to be extremely logical, sometimes to a fault.