Vespiers are an Israidian race that migrated to Calamia during the War of Daishevar. They are distantly related to the athdraki, in the same way that chimpanzees are distantly related to humans, but vespiers are considered a lesser, more primitive race. The athdraki, who deny their common ancestry, treat vespiers like dogs and, on Israidius, breed them for use as guardians, servants, slaves, and hunting beasts.
Vespiers were first seen on Calamia serving as partisans for the invading Israidian army. These savage, “attack dog” type units – specifically bred by the Empire – were sent out before the main army to cut up opposing forces, but they also served as trackers and saboteurs. After the war, the survivors dispersed and formed wild colonies. For many centuries, they were hunted and killed as “demons”, but over time the original stigma surrounding their origins passed into history.
Today, they’re commonly referred to as “werebats” due to their resemblance to the smaller, cave-dwelling mammals that populate Calamia. They are occasionally confused with vampires, but vespiers do not survive on blood nor do they fear the sun. They are reclusive creatures by nature and will not attack unless threatened or deliberately provoked.
Farmers like to utilize their droppings to fertilize fields and the art of gathering werebat excrement is almost a religion to some tribal peoples. As a result, vespier colonies are well tolerated by humans and other neighboring races, such as orcs, kojintora, and bakhyar. They do compete with dwarves, gnomes, and deshiven for living space, but unless colonies become diseased or start to seriously infringe on local resources, these races generally leave them alone and can even co-exist side-by-side.
In 3119 ADW, Kenneth Mordishant, the ambitious leader of the Dominion’s Fifth Legion, unleashed a division of half-vespiers in Espia, Thelahar, in an attempt to overthrow the government. These half-vespiers, specially bred and socialized to live among humans, had been secretly introduced into the Fifth Legion’s infantry over a number of years (unbeknownst to most of the human soldiers).
When Mordishant revolted, these vespierian units helped him overtake the province and lay siege to the capital city of Estessavale. But these victories also exposed their true nature, not only to the Fifth Legion’s human troops, but to the populous they conquered. During the ongoing siege, rifts formed between a number of human and vespier warriors and Espian citizens rallied against the non-human invaders. Despite the problems, many of these vespiers remained loyal to the army and became renowned warriors. But others, disenchanted with the negative attitude of their human comrades, deserted and became rogues.
Like athdraki, vespiers have two forms – a humanoid form and a hybrid form. Their hybrid form is considered their primary state since this is the form into which they’re born, but each form has important physical and mental differences.
In hybrid form, vespiers look like overgrown fruit-bats (flying foxes). They have fox-like heads with long snouts, pointed ears, and leathery wing membranes that connect their arms, body, and legs (just like a real bat). Their rear legs are short and relatively stumpy looking with five, long toes on each foot. They do not have tails, but they do have a few extra sets of vertebrae at the end of their spine that create a “tail nub”.
Their forearms literally *are* their wings (they do NOT have a separate pair of wings like celestials or athdraki) and they use these interchangeably for flight and crawling. Because they don’t have “hands” like people in their hybrid form, they have to use a set of small hooks on the top of their wing joints. These hooks, consisting of three clawed, finger-like projections, extend from the wing joint (what would be the wrist) and can be used to touch and pick up small objects, grip stone, and slash at enemies.
Vespiers have thick, dark fur that covers their entire body. Their fur can be brown, black, gray, and dark reddish-brown. Dark brown is the most dominant color seen, but colorations can vary based on climate. A few specialized colonies in Colidria sport speckled gray-white fur with black ears, faces, and wings, and light blue eyes. Occasionally, a pure white vespier is born, but these individuals are almost always blind and die very young.
In their humanoid form, vespiers take on the general shape and proportions of bipedal hominids and can be easily mistaken for humans, particularly hutar. However, there are several physical distinctions between “humans” and “vespiers in humanoid form”. First, vespiers tend to be larger and taller than the average human. This makes them very imposing and they may have to slouch or keep their heads bowed to get through doorways.
They have large, round eyes – always of a pale color – that often give one the impression of a “deer in headlights”, and darker shades of hair. Their hair is multi-layered, having a short, dense undercoat, and longer, thicker overcoat. The portion that covers their head can grow long like a human’s, making it appear very luxuriant and attractive, but it feels like fox or dog fur. It will be the same color as their fur in hybrid form.
Their body hair, which typically covers their chest, back, arms, and legs, is much thinner. Female vespiers have a soft, downy peach fuzz that gives them the feel of a minx. Males, however, have dark, wiry chest, groin, and back hair, as well as muzzle hair comparable to a schnauzer. They can, of course, clip this hair to fit in better, but it is highly unnatural and some choose to wear garbs to obscure these features rather than shave.
Unlike humans, vespiers lack finger and toe nails and simply have pointed looking digits with strong, hard tips. These tips are not retractable claws, but very hard points that can be filed sharp. In addition, humanoid vespiers retain their pronounced canine teeth, which is one reason they can be mistaken for vampires. In public they have to be very careful, especially when smiling or eating.
However, the most striking physical feature that distinguishes a vespier from an ordinary human can only be seen in the dark. At night, their eyes become reflective and glow red from certain angles, much like a cat’s eyes.
In their hybrid form, vespiers increase in strength over their human form, are highly agile, and capable of flight (although they are not long distance flyers). They remain similar in size to their human forms, but they revert to a primitive mind set, behaving more like animals. As bats, however, they are violent, less organized, and less responsive to coherent communication, making them very dangerous to confront.
They do not have echolocation, but possess an uncanny sense of direction and can find their way home over long distances. They also have good hearing and low-light vision, but in their vespier form they don’t see colors very well and the world looks greyed out to them. They can see colors in their humanoid form. Vespiers are generally poor swimmers, so they tend to avoid water that cannot be waded through or flown over.
Note: Any full or half-breed vespierian magus will completely lose the ability to cast spells while in their bat form regardless of character class. No exceptions.
Vespiers are not “technologically savvy” and the large majority are not magically inclined. Very few ever learn to use magite and, although they can be cunning creatures, often surprising their rivals with their ferocity, they’re not naturally creative or inventive. In the wild, they rely on their wits and instincts, retaining a base viewpoint of the world, and they must be socialized or educated by another race to move outside these limitations.
Vespiers do not have a civilization or complex social structure as most other races do. Left to themselves, they live in prolific clusters or colonies (made up of “folds” – smaller groups of between 5-8 individuals, usually 1 or 2 breeding males and 6 or 7 females), preferring dark subterranean caverns for homes. They do not establish permanent towns or cities, but live over a seasonal range. In the wild, they have no elders, no sense of politics, and no concept of nobility or rank. Rather there is a simple pecking order within each fold determined largely by health and strength.
Because they focus on the basics – food, shelter, protection, and procreation – colonies can become quite large, numbering from 50 to 100 individuals in a single colony (on average). In particularly large caverns, multiple colonies may join together, increasing their numbers well into the hundreds. These colonies, however, are not bound together out of true sense of society, but because its safer to live in large groups.
They have their own language, which is different from the common Calamian dialects and sounds like “clicking” to most people. Some vespiers are capable of learning human speech, but they tend to stutter unless they’ve studied and practiced it extensively.
They can be trained to integrate into other societies, but it is not something they do naturally. On Israidius, for example, vespiers are specifically bred and trained to be pit fighters and soldiers. Their lives, very different from those of their wild cousins, are often short and brutal. The Empire does not treat them very well, viewing them as “beasts” developed to fuel the Israidian war machine. In the best cases, they’re considered “pets” or “companions”, but they are bred for the Empire and do not join as citizens. A few Israidians may come to see them as equals, but the prevailing attitude is one of prejudice and disdain.
Vespierian magi (both full vespiers or half breeds) are virtually unheard of on both worlds. Within the Empire, it’s considered a worthless venture since vespiers have a difficult time learning complex principles such as magic. On Calamia, there are some instances where a vespier can learn magic, however, it requires training from a non-vespierian source. Natural colonies have no need for magic and so do not attempt to study or pass it on to their young. For a vespier to learn to use or even become interested in using magite, they would need to have some sort of outside influence or exposure via another race as well as a patient magite user willing to instruct them since it takes them longer to learn.
Generally speaking, vespiers lack the morally conscious aspects of other races. They are not evil, simply less emotional and more pragmatic about the world around them. These traits can make them excellent servants or soldiers since they are less emotionally conflicted than humans, but have serious drawbacks in that, from a human standpoint, they may appear to be insensitive, have few inhibitions, and even a poor level of intelligence and self-awareness.
Contrary to popular opinion, they do have emotions and can feel hate, affection, jealousy and sadness. But because individual needs are commonly put aside for the benefit of the fold, a vespier’s reasoning tends to be very black and white; their outlook more communal than individual; and their attachments less romantic than lustful. Governed by the tenant – the strong survive, the weak die – they can seem very cruel to outsiders. Weakness is not something vespier colonies mitigate. Unlike humans, many will not help sick or injured peers. In the wild, mothers offer the closest form of care giving in these situations, but if an individual becomes too weak, they are usually left to die. On occasion, when food is scarce, vespiers will result to cannibalism and the weak, dead, or dying are fair game.
Vespiers are migratory creatures that can be found living in almost every natural environment on Calamia from snowy tundra to deserts to more tropical and mountainous regions. They are primarily nocturnal, although if necessary, they can be active at any time of day.
They prefer to live in high places, such as ceilings or tree limbs well above water, and will roost in caverns, crevices, or deep forests where food is plentiful. In such places, they sometimes construct makeshift shelters out of stone, mud, or grasses, but these shelters are rudimentary and more along the lines of nests.
Their migration patterns are determined by weather conditions, food supply, and available shelter. They will, if necessary, utilize old or abandoned buildings, but typically stay away from human settlements. Because they are an omnivorous species, capable of consuming both plants and animals, they can be very opportunistic when it comes to food. Isolated individuals commonly scavenge for meals, eating small mammals, birds, and fruit. Vespier “folds” typically hunt together and can be formidable predators of larger game such as deer.