Shapeshifting Descendants of Animal Spirits
Amongst the Ten Thousand Immortals can be found the Nai-Hempashu, mighty spirit lords of the animal species. At times in the past, so the legends say, these nai-hempashu have travelled the world in human guise and had relationships with humans and animals. The essence of the animal spirits passed into the mortal realm and occasionally reveals itself in the individuals known as nai-nek-chai, neither human nor animal.
Nai-nek-chai are beings born to humans who can take the form of a particular species of animal, or they are creatures born to animals who can take the form of humans. Not a true race in their own right, nai-nek-chai tend to gravitate to the fringes of human society although they may be found all over the World of Conclave. Those nai-nek-chai whose animal halves are pack or herd creatures tend to prefer the company of others, those whose animal sides are lone creatures tend to prefer their own company and the solitude of the wilderness.
Each nai-nek-chai takes the form of one type of animal, able to change shape under conscious control. In human form they usually bear some vague resemblance to, or display behaviour stereotypical of, that creature. A cat nai-nek-chai, for example, may be fastidiously clean and affect an aloof air. A raven nai-nek-chai might be dark-haired, sharp-nosed and acquisitive of shiny objects. All nai-nek-chai tend to maintain some animalistic tendencies to their personality such as a prediliction for eating or a nervousness around fire.
In the Empire of Splendour, nai-nek-chai are alternately reviled as thieves and layabouts, and treated with awe as creatures of the spirit realm. Some nai-nek-chai happily embrace either (or both) of these stereotypes, others merely wish to live their own lives free from interference. There are no organised nai-nek-chai nations or groups although the shapechangers will sometimes form alliances against the rest of the world that shuns them.
In the Khazarate of Vaarta, most nai-nek-chai (known there as novodnolaki) are hunted by the Church's ulvoski inquisitors as supposedly demonic creatures. The exception to this is an elite group of wolf nai-nek-chai, the volkolaki, who are enthusiastic converts to the Vaartan Church and form a regiment of bodyguards for the Khazar.
Elsewhere, nai-nek-chai are treated much as they are in the Empire. Tlaxu are ambivalent towards them, salsham'ai consider them as equals and the ti-kop get on well with aquatic nai-nek-chai. Very rarely, some of the non-human races produce a natural shapechanger but the nai-nek-chai race seems to be predominantly related to humanity.
The following bonus feat is available to all nai-nek-chai:
Animal Voice [General]
You are able to speak in your animal form.
Benefit: When in animal form you are able to communicate normally, using any language that you can speak. This also enables you to cast spells whilst in animal form, provided that they do not contain a somatic component.
(c) 2008 The Creative Conclave.