The average baenite stands 2.5 meters tall (8 ft), but weighs less than 90 kilograms (200 pounds). This disproportionately tall and thin body structure makes the baenites easily recognizable, even at great distances.
The pupilless lavender eyes of the baenites have been said to glow softly when light is not cast on them. The baenite has a very complicated eye structure. Mounted in front of the optical lens are two thin membranes that overlap. Each of these membranes polarizes incoming light as it is focused and is attached to an independent muscle. By adjusting the angle of these two membranes in relation to each other, the eye can decrease the amount of incoming light instantly. Therefore, spells which attempt to overload the optic nerves of an enemy are not as effective versus the baenites. Likewise, they are virtually immune to bright flashes or the blinding glare of sunlight on sand dunes. A third, transparent eyelid protects the eye from stinging sand while maintaining vision.
Baenite hands and feet are uniquely adapted to the desert. A baenite hand has four centrally located fingers and two diametrically opposed thumbs. In a similar fashion, the broad, flat feet of the baenites have two opposed digits flanking a broad central toe. No hair grows from the leathery black skin. Baenites have broad cheekbones, well defined jaws and prominent eye ridges giving them strong facial features. The nose of a baenite is slightly impacted and consists of four thin vertical breathing slits. The overall effect is a slightly bestial look which most other races considered ugly. The spine forms a ridge up the center of the back which terminates at the base of the neck. The typical baenite lives to be about 130 years old with noticeable physical degradation only late in life.
The baenites are fond of study and intellectual pursuits and enjoy riddles, puzzles and proverbs. Mathematical computation and the natural sciences are among their skills. Above all, the baenites are reasonable and logical. A baenite would never allow emotions to take precedence of intellect. Most races consider the baenites cruel and uncaring. This is partially true. The baenites view emotions as a weakness. They have emotions but completely control them through rigid discipline. If one were to look into a baenites soul, one would see calm hate, controlled anger and rigid uncaring nonchalance. Baenites have been known to torture, kill nonchalantly and throw prisoners to hungry animals.
The baenites have many minor deities that form a complex pantheon. This faith, which includes a great deal of philosophy and mysticism, is known as Ashali. The most important gods of the faith are Takyr and Zhun (Drellis and Karrym), the two suns. The religion focuses on one finding one's path, or purpose, in life. The baenite creation myth holds that the two suns are gods, one male and one female, and that the first baenites were conceived by them. But these first baenites descended from the sky because of their tendency toward independence and isolation. One obscure legend states that someday, Takyr and Zhun will unite into one star. When this happens, thunder and lightning will consume the sands of the desert and the baenite people will be no more.
Baenite magic is approximately equivalent to human magic in power and scope. Some spells are not widely used by the baenite mages because of the environment, but new spells tailored to the Baen Desert have been created over the centuries. Magic is accepted, used efficiently, studied and considered, by some, an art form. Few laws restrict its use. About 1 in 2,000 baenites studies the mystical arts which is a bit more than the human norm of 1 in a 2,500. The baenites are well aware of the Drellis effect and it has integrated itself into their myths. Some say that Takyr (Drellis) is angry at the baenite people for descending from the sky and so she pours down her wrath which weakens baenite spells. However, Zhun (Karrym) tries to protect his children and so shields the baenites from their mothers wrath.
The Baen desert is the only native region of the baenites. Hundreds of small villages dot the desert of which seven communities are large enough to be called cities and each of these is independent. No central government exists. The only similarities binding these communities together is proximity, race and culture. Because of its association with the two suns, the Baen desert is considered holy land, spiritually above all other lands on Khoras, and is also considered to be the center of the world by the baenites. Few resources exist in the desert to be exploited. This is fine with the baenites for they have little desire to trade with outside cultures. To compensate for the climate and lack of natural wealth, this culture relies heavily on hard work, ingenious agricultural techniques, animal husbandry and of course... magic.
There are no sub-races of the baenites. All baenites are of the same race with virtually no physical or cultural differentiation. Community sizes vary from several hundred to several thousand. Villages are sparsely scattered and immobile.
The central language of the baenites is Baenese. Due to the baenite cultural purity, Baenese is linguistically unique. It is very difficult to translate complex ideas or culture specific ideas into or out of Baenese. The alphabet consists of 38 letters and several nasal sounds which are extremely difficult for non-baenite speakers to simulate. Reading and writing is more prevalent among the population than with other races. In fact, most of their history is textual in nature rather than verbally recited. Historical records are common and accurate. This stems from the baenite custom of keeping a personal journal. Literature and poetry is extensive as these are considered intellectually enlightening. Drawing and painting are limited because pigments, canvas and other more delicate art supplies are difficult to obtain and protect in the harsh baenite environment.
The baenites are somewhat xenophobic. They generally avoid contact with outside cultures and do not welcome travelers. Culturally purity has been the main reason and it has been maintained for centuries. However, as the decades pass, more and more baenites leave the Baen desert to seek what lies beyond the dunes. Baenites are rare in the outer world, but most races are aware of the baenites just as the baenites are aware of most outside cultures. The most frequent baenite renegades are mages and scholars who only seek knowledge and believe that the only way to understand life and the world is to experience it firsthand. Rarely are these renegades welcomed home. Therefore, the decision to leave is a grave one. Between 20 and 50 baenites leave each year. Because of their xenophobic tendencies and their brutish facial features, the baenites are known to the world as desert demons, dune devils, dark ones and similar fear filled names.
Primary food sources are adapted desert crops (aided through irrigation), various desert animals and the occasional lightning lizard. Very rarely a dragon makes an appearance, but then it is the dragon that eats and the baenites that are eaten. The sandworm is considered a delicacy among the baenites. However, these rare, three meter long horrors are hard to find and even harder to kill. Food surplus and food storage does not occur as there is usually not quite enough to feed everyone. (It is considered an insult to the host to waste even a single crumb). Indeed, wasting food at any time is virtually unheard of. Food creation magic is needed to help most villages get by. Serving in this capacity, the baenite priests are much respected.
Baenite technology is consistent with the human average. They are capable of producing tools and weapons of most metals. Architectural construction is advanced in stone cutting and fitting. Most baenite dwellings are completely stone. Magic is sometimes used to aid in such constructions, especially when stone is difficult to obtain.
Desert striders are often used as steeds and beasts of burden. Long distance communication is often done with trained hawks or more rarely with magic. Desert dogs serve a variety of functions. Cloud dancers (winged lizards, related to the dragon, very rare, 4 meter wing span) are used for important transportation or communications.
Ownership laws and property customs are similar to humans. Bartering is the main system of trade. No abstract monetary form exists. Credit and debt are mathematical concepts which the baenites understand but rarely use because it is considered impolite to trade in such abstracts. Inheritance always falls to the oldest surviving child, regardless of sex.
The baenites are unique in their perceptions of the sexes. Virtually no distinction between male and female rights and responsibilities exist. This quality is considered alien by most other cultures (that are male dominated).
Baenite marriages unite a male and female in a social bond as "mates". Baenite marriage is monogynous, but only at a superficial level. Baenites are much more open about social interaction and sex than other races. Because baenites do not become emotionally involved, they exchange partners frequently. Marriage rituals are small and simple. Mates are usually close and rely on each other while they are together. Divorce is nonexistent. Partners simply leave each other.
Families tend to be large despite the constraints of food availability. It is traditional to have three or four child so that the strongest two will survive. The baenites methodically and logically plan everything out - even population control.
Mates usually stay together during pregnancy and to raise young children. If and when two mates part ways the children go with the parents - sons with fathers and daughters with mothers.
Baenites have a gestation period of 11 months. Unwanted pregnancies are terminated through the ingestion of a mildly poisonous desert herb (Virgin Herb).
Children are required to work, to fight for their share of food and often to fend for themselves. Children are educated in groups by village scholars. In the larger cities, specialized academies exist. Discipline is harsh, sometimes brutal. Recreation and games usually have an educational theme. Children are taught that strength of will is as important as strength of body.
The baenite death ritual involves wrapping the deceased tightly in a fine mesh cloth from head to foot and burning atop a large pyre. Ceremonies are short and simple consisting of prayers and songs by relatives and friends. Burning allows the deceased to rise to the everlasting sky and return to Takyr and Zhun. The smoky spirit returns to the sky, to a higher realm... a realm of pure thought, energy and serene perfection... a realm that lacks all physicality.
Baenite names consist of two parts : the personal name first, the family name second. Ranks or titles follow both names. Baenite names tend to be complex and favor consents, especially S, K, T, V and L. This lends baenite names a slightly sharp and alien sound.
A few common Baenite names include: Sythrok, Stokart, Zul, Tyvek, Kresh, Skalvek, V’tong, Zevyk and Ta’Prang.
Social stratification is significant. From lowest rank to highest : commoners, law enforcers, judges, scholars, priests, mages, ruling elders. Slavery is conducted by the baenites. But keeping slaves could lead to cultural pollution. Therefore, it is traditional to cut the tongue out of a slave so that he or she may not speak lies or influence the young with words. Male slaves also have their genitals cut off to protect the baenite women from an unwanted half-breed child.
The elders of each community unite into councils and serve as the legislators, creating and refining laws. Laws are enforced by small patrol groups. Legal transgressions are dealt with by the Judges. The Judges are appointed by the ruling elders.
The baenite military is rather divided. Each community can muster a small militia of approximately 1/10 its total size. If ever there was a great need, dozens of these groups could be united into a formidable army. However, no hostile force has ever attempted to penetrate the Baen desert. Baenite militias combine magic and steel, utilizing both ground and mounted troops and aerial reconnaissance.
Prominent community ceremonies include Sandworm Feasting, the Binding (marriage ceremony) and the Dance of the Suns (a yearly gathering of non-lethal combat and magical prowess).
A baenite desert mage wearing sand visor.
This website was last updated November 30, 2023. Copyright 1990-2023 David M. Roomes.