You ever visit the Radiant Empire? It’s creepy. Damn creepy, indeed. There could be a thousand people around you, but you’d hear a fart a mile away.
-Edward IV “Chummy” Cortez, Councilor of Anchors
The kavi are natives of the continent, Aahana. Perhaps the most infamous race on the planet, their reputation is not undeserved—at the height of their power, the kavi controlled 47% of the world’s population.
At a glance, kavi resemble humans in many ways. Their general shape, size, and biological needs are nearly identical. Kavi lifespans are a mirror reflection of humans; they reach sexual maturity, age, and die at the same rate. Despite these similarities, the kavi are a fundamentally distinct race, unable to produce offspring with humans. They lack the diversity that humans have: all are born with grayish-silver hair and eyes, and their skin tones are varying shades of light blue. Kavi eyes also lack a discernible pupil—this feature neither hinders nor benefits their vision. Their single greatest difference, though, lies in their mind; kavi are natural telepaths and chanters. Although humans can technically learn these skills as well, the ones who can are few and far between. Kavi who master their gifts can open their tarankh, a hidden, third eye that is unique to kavi biology. The tarankh is oriented vertically on their forehead and entirely black, flecked with silver spots, earning it the nickname: eye of the night sky.
Language, Culture, and Fashion
The official language of the kavi is called Kavinagari. However, by age ten, most kavi will have given up verbal communication in favor of telepathy, and by adulthood speech will only be used for chanting. This has created a unique society where speaking out loud is a faux pas, with many kavi viewing other races as primitive for still using speech as their primary form of communication. Because of their telepathy, music is markedly different from the other races. Every piece is an instrumental, as singing is a foreign concept to them, and compositions are done with their muted tastes in mind. Kavi music can be characterized as soft, gentle, and atmospheric.
There is a popular saying in kavi culture: “silver is the tongue, golden is the mind”. This sentiment can be seen in the everyday lives of the kavi, from the clothes they wear to the way they eat. Kavi are methodical in their movements and actions—even breathing—doing everything in such a way as to minimize the noise they make. Those unfamiliar with kavi culture often find them to be slow-moving because of this and are sometimes referred to as “dirt-mimes”—this is an extremely derogatory term, however, and shouldn’t be used.
Kavi fashion prefers simplicity in design, but quality of material, which is why you will be hard-pressed to find a kavi wearing clothes made of anything but the finest cloth or silk. Generally speaking, kavi attire consists of simple fitted pieces, slippers or sandals, and a loose shawl for adornment. On men, the shawl is shorter and thinner, more akin to a scarf; women’s shawls are large enough to drape around their waist and over a shoulder. Kavi jewelry features no moving parts, favoring solid bands or studs, since anything more will be “noisy”. And during special occasions, kavi will decorate their arms and legs with kamlal, temporary body art using red dye produced from the kamlal bush.
Chanting is a unique form of magic originating from Aahana and perfected over several millennia; it’s believed Avatara Goptalvar taught it to the kavi when the Radiant Empire first formed. Chanters alter the physical, non-living world around them through mantras. A mantra is a Kavinagari word or phrase, which when repeated by a chanter, allows them to do magic. There exist thousands of mantras, but each one is tied to a specific type of magic which can be as simple as splitting a lump of dirt or coaxing an ember into a flame, to freezing water or conjuring a gust powerful enough to knock down a house. Although kavi use chanting in their everyday lives, the Radiant Empire’s military relies heavily on its destructive aspects to maintain control of their territories.
Trimurtism and the Avatara
The predominant religion among the kavi is Trimurtism. Trimurts believe the world goes through three phases in an eternal cycle; each phase is overseen by a deity: Mahabij the Creator oversees the birth of the world, Mahaap the Preserver nurtures it, and Mahaprasu the Destroyer ends it so the cycle can begin anew. Trimurts believe we are currently in a preservation phase, so there will come a time when Mahaprasu will appear amid cataclysmic disasters for a final confrontation against all life. Trimurtism’s goal is to end this cycle once and for all.
Devout Trimurts believe the Avatara to be Mahaap born in flesh. Their beliefs state that Mahaap, being the most compassionate of the deities and unable to bear the heartache of witnessing the world’s destruction again, desired the end of the eternal cycle. Mahaap saw in the kavi a people strong enough to stand against Mahaprasu, so descended in mortal form to guide them in their inevitable confrontation.
The Avatara is a kavi of immense power, demonstrating unsurpassed mastery of chanting. They have unusually long lifespans, living up to 500 years. When an Avatara is near death, they handpick another kavi to succeed them. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of rule for how a successor is picked, and in truth it appears random. Once the successor is picked, they enter a Trimurt temple with the Avatara, where they remain alone until the Avatara dies and transfers their gifts to the successor. This transference is signified by red smoke over the temple, and the next day the successor emerges as the new Avatara, along with all the powers and memories of the previous Avataras. Even though the Avatara has existed among the kavi for three thousand years, no one truly knows the Avatara’s origins or where their powers come from.
The Radiant Empire
The Radiant Empire is the oldest and largest empire to ever exist on Blueheim; it emerged in 2270 FA alongside Trimurtism, after Avatara Goptalvar united the kavi. Steeped in Trimurt beliefs, the kavi genuinely believed Avatara Goptalvar to be the physical incarnation of their god, Mahaap, and made him their absolute ruler. In 1408 FA, Avatara Rithnu issued a holy decree that the kavi must unite the world in preparation for their battle against Mahaprasu. This led the Radiant Empire on an aggressive campaign of expansion. They easily conquered the entire Aahanan continent and began absorbing the lands east of it. Then, in 1278 FA, they turned their gaze across the Altum Ocean and took Magna Tellus.
Inevitably, the Radiant Empire would grow too large for it to control all their territories, and they would lose their hold in Magna Tellus after the Peasant King’s Rebellion. During this sudden loss of power, the kavi came to realize the Avatara wasn’t an infallible god, and the Radiant Empire shifted from a Trimurt-centric government to a secular one. Ruling power was stripped from the Avatara and given to the people, but the kavi didn’t do away with the Avatara entirely; they kept her in a ceremonial capacity as a symbol of the Radiant Empire’s power. In our current day, the Avatara represents the kavi’s will on the world stage and has limited executive powers, such as being the tiebreaker when appointing gurus to govern the Radiant Empire.
Trimurtism is still widely practiced by kavi today—though in a more moderate form—and its legacy exists throughout the Radiant Empire. One of the more unfortunate ways Trimurtism has manifested is in the creation of a two-tiered caste system. The Radiant Empire doesn’t allow non-kavi to hold positions of power, despite a significant portion of its population falling into this category. As such, kavi have effectively kept the other races of the Radiant Empire as poor laborers—some would argue slaves—unable to move up in society. The current Avatara, Avatara Mournkhed, made attempts to abolish the system, but met heavy resistance from the kavi. After all, for thousands of years the kavi believed they were chosen by Mahaap to save the world. It was only a small step for them to believe other races inferior.