Heirs of Forgotten Legacy
An ancient species on Theia, their halcyon days ended when the world began developing massively virulent parasites. The vlax, instead of fighting them, incorporated the new life forms into themselves eons ago. After tragedy, they sealed themselves away only to recently reawaken.
The vlax came to prominence during the Pathogenic Age, an intercataclysmic period when global bacteria storms and diminutive aberrations dominated the world. Over the centuries, beings that started as companions and tools became integral parts of vlax society. More than merely intertwined, vlax and their symbionts developed a dependency. The melding of their basic biochemistry proved so complete that one could not survive without the specific enzymes the other produced. This aspect of the symbiotic relationship almost to lead to the vlax’s downfall.
Though the date of its outbreak is uncertain, a wasting illness decimated the symbionts, rendering their lives short and untenable. Magic could alleviate an individual’s symptoms, but could not cure an entire population. Without their symbionts, the vlax could not survive, and their society faced utter collapse. They devised a plan: seal themselves in hives beneath Theia’s mountains. Trust that the massive changes wrought by future Cataclysms would, coupled with the symbionts’ adaptive nature, enable the dormant race’s recovery. Surviving pairs and symbiont-deprived individuals passed through the protective membranes of their millennial cocoons to somnolently await a remedy’s spontaneous generation.
They awoke instead to the touch of cold implements wielded by inquisitive minds. Ages had passed. Chilzangan miners had discovered the hibernating race in the Spine of Barshiin and called medical researchers to investigate the unfamiliar beings. In their quest for knowledge and after a decade of work, scientists diagnosed the symbiont’s condition and created a cure.
The vlax were grateful. Once they woke and overcame language barriers, they helped advance Chilzangan medical science by leaps and bounds. In turn, the vlax learned much of Theia’s new face. Years of contact had inured the dwarves and humans to their subjects’ alien aspects, and they began experimenting with symbionts alongside the older race. The Chilzangan ruling council declared that the researchers had been compromised. No true follower of the Path would knowingly integrate with aberrant material, nor would they refer to the vlax as “alien, fascinating, and exceedingly knowledgeable – a tremendous asset to our society.” The hierophants dispatched a force to eliminate the corruptors and bend the wayward researchers back to the Path.
When the Chilzangan troops finally entered the hives after days of marching through the Spine, however, they encountered abandoned passages devoid of sapient life and cleared of Chilzangan technology. The community of heretics was forewarned and on the run, zealous Chilzangans hard at their heels. It was Theia herself that saved the fugitives. Moments before the crusaders descended, the bones of the earth shattered and the skies filled with torrential cascades of arcane power. The capricious Cataclysm eliminated the Chilzangans in remarkable fashion: the pursuing army was turned to dust.
The vlax’s aberrant nature complicates their relations with Barshiin’s other inhabitants, as does lasting Chilzangan prejudice, but their knowledge of biology and medicine means they are often consulted despite the uneasiness with which they are viewed. Be they intriguing oddity or necessary evil, this ancient, adaptable race yet makes its mark on Theia.
An average vlax stands 6 to 7 feet tall, weighs between 200 and 250 pounds, and lives roughly 350 years. Their heads form broad wedges, slightly elongated craniums blending with cheeks that slope sharply forwards to flat faces. Their broad shoulders and wide abdomens are covered in ridges of flesh and cartilage, and each hand and foot ends in four opposable digits. Vlax skin is leathery and dense, and their necks, arms, and extremities sport mottled patterns of scales. Skin tones tend towards the dull greys, browns, and yellows of Barshiin’s rocky environment. Scales exhibit similar pigmentations but may range the full spectrum depending on a vlax’s brood, diet, or aesthetic desires.
The vlax’s aberrant nature is further reinforced by fine control of their own bodies. Independent motion of skin over muscle is a nuanced part of vlax language, but this control goes deeper. Vlax can alter their anatomies through time, focus, and consumption of a specific substance. Common alterations include bioluminescence or internal storage pouches, but their mastery enables a wide variety of changes. Finally, while amongst their own kind, vlax harbor a number of minor parasites. The visible subcutaneous motions of these creatures are a key part of formal communication, but given the negative reactions of Theia’s other inhabitants towards the practice, vlax usually void themselves before travel. Even so, a vlax would never dream of totally ridding themselves of the smaller creatures, as they give rise to the most important element of vlax physiology and culture: symbionts.
Separate companion organisms in epochs past, enzymes and microorganisms inherent to vlax physiology quicken the growth of these advanced parasites. A symbiont’s most important function is the maintenance of enzymatic balances necessary for its host’s health. Without the particular chemicals the siblings produce for each other, they would wither away. Vlax and symbiont live and die together.
Not all symbionts are part of a bonded pair, however. Through intricate biological processes and accelerant injections, vlax can rear other symbionts from Theia’s ubiquitous parasites, using other aberrations as hosts for this husbandry. While Theia’s parasites may spontaneously evolve into symbionts, especially when exposed to enough viiz, none but the vlax are such capable craftsmen of these living tools.