The Ikam possess a great natural aptitude for channeling Mana, a modest aptitude for psychic powers, scales protecting joints and vital soft locations, dense short hair padding bony locations, and some slightly feline features – retractable claws, slit pupils, mobile pointed ears, exceptional agility and flexibility, and a relatively short lifespan (rarely exceeding 160 years). They are usually slightly shorter and more slender than a human, but have a dense bone and muscle structure and thus weigh about the same amount. They do not swim well.
Socially they are highly caste-organized; the basic unit of their species is the Deza (“Fortress” or – interchangeably – “People”); there you will find the governing leaders – a council of Athari (older females with strong Witchcraft and Dominion abilities who specialize in lore and politics). There, also, you will find the relatively modest numbers of Vedan (occult specialists, most often thaumaturgists), the (rather small) children who have not yet been sorted into their adult castes, and the numerous Kodan (crafters and experts, although they almost always know a bit of rune magic to use in their specialities), who make up the bulk of the noncombatant breeding population.
Most Ikam children are capable of channeling their Mana into Spontaneous Magic. As they grow up, Sovath gain Resilience, Vedan gain Spell Enhancement, Kodan gain Reality Editing (used to make subtle adjustments to their tasks and creations). As they age, Ikam trade in more and more of their innate Mana for Power – greatly amplifying their low-grade innate psychic abilities and allowing their elders to coordinate the efforts of an entire Deza.
Outsiders will most often encounter members of the Sovath caste – the (almost entirely male) warrior-gathers charged with the defense and service of the Deza. Members of most of the other castes rarely leave the immediate vicinity of their fortress – and some may never set foot outside. The Sovath tend to be very protective of the other castes and of the physical fortress they occupy in any case; if it had been left up to the Sovath, the other races would probably still be wondering if any other castes actually existed – and what the Sovath were hiding in those places that no one was allowed to get near.
The Ikam – or at least the Sovath – are not the best at intensive outdoors farming (although the Kodan do some indoors magically-enhanced forced-growth gardening), but do reasonably well with herding and gathering foodstuffs that require minimal cultivation. On the other hand, the Athari do not hesitate in the slightest to rent out the services of extraneous Sovath, and are often willing to essentially sell them outright – although they cannot be turned against their own people. The cost of such warriors is quite high, simply because they are utterly reliable, resistant to mental manipulations, and will obey their masters to the death.
Major disputes between Deza (and sometimes between individual Athari within a Deza), are settled by personal contests of champions – perhaps on the theory that the ability to attract strong followers, and knowing when and when not to fight, are vital tests of skill and foresight for a leader.
Socially, the Ikam raise their children in a communal creche, sorting them out early according to their aptitudes and training them extensively in their duties. The Sovath, at least, follow a rigid warrior code of honor, never breaking their word (unless ordered to do so by an Athari), never showing cowardice, and being willing to commit suicide rather then be compromised. The other castes are generally more flexible – but even they don’t see any major distinction between the other major races and the monsters. None of the are part of the Deza, and thus they aren’t people.
Deza are usually found in the hills, usually nestled comfortably in easily-defended valleys where the surrounding hills take the brunt of the storms. While there are any number of outworks, the central fortress tends to take the form of a monolithic keep. They’re commonly associated with the Thunder Dwarves as well. In less dangerous worlds, Deza are occasionally nomadic or semi-nomadic, but that’s hardly practical in the Twilight Isles.
The Ikam find the Shadow Elves flighty, unreliable, and more than a little treacherous. On the other hand, they willingly inhabit the lowlands and hold off the monsters from the seas, they trade food and supplies for the privilege of having Savoth in their midst to keep an eye on them, and they can be counted on to dissolve into bickering among themselves every time they put together a big enough force to be a serious threat to a Deza. Overall, having the Shadow Elves around is a good thing for the Ikam.
The Ikam think that the Thunder Dwarves are a friendly resource – and that their culture is actually tolerably compatible. They hire excess Sovath to guard their mutual territories and pay in help in building and maintaining Deza and in permanent magics that the Vedan would have a great deal of difficulty duplicating. They have never been a threat to any of the Deza, and for all their magical skill maintain far fewer military specialists than the Ikam. Overall, the Ikam tend to feel that they – with their military skills and keen telepathic insights – are looking after the Thunder Dwarves. They aren’t exactly “real people”, but they come pretty close.
The Sovath feel that Veltine can make excellent companions and allies; their tendency to form powerful personal bonds with their “packmates”, and to defend the women and children, makes individual Veltine quite acceptable. Raiding parties and misbehaving Veltine need, of course, to be either domesticated or put down like rabid animals. The other Ikam castes generally think of Veltine as dangerous animals; if the Sovath see some military advantage in domesticating some of them, that’s fine – as long as they don’t try to bring them inside.
To reprint their religious note:
The Ikam believe that their remote and terrible god has either abandoned them or cast them out*. In time, perhaps, those who have not fallen from the true ways will redeem themselves and their people, or reach their god through the Maze with which he/she/it tests them, and bring his/her/its aid to the people once again. They invoke his/her/its great aspects – Creation, Transformation, and Destruction – in fear and trembling. Still, it is said that THEIR god sometimes speaks from beyond the Maze.
*A modest group believes that they have been isolated and hidden for their own protection while their god fights some mighty enemy, and focuses on training to eventually become worth to stand with him and support him in his struggle.