The Trial of Bayhaven
Tall and angular, the varjellen would never be confused with humans. They have a violet-red hue to their flesh; bulbous, yellow-cast, contralateral eyes; a tall, thin crest atop their head; and a broad chest with two limblike structures that open a cavity within their chest. This cavity protects their heart and provides them access to it and other internal organs. Humans have likened a varjellen’s chest to a cage with doors that can open and close. The varjellen call this protected cavity their crucible. Having access to their own internal organs provides the varjellen with a unique benefit. By gently massaging and subtly rearranging their organs in a manner understood only by the varjellen brain, they gain control over their entire physical structure, modifying their bodies on a cellular level as needed.
In other words, a varjellen can make itself faster, stronger, and even smarter when it needs to. But there is a price. To increase musculature of one kind, another must be diminished. To improve brain structures, tissue from elsewhere in the body must be sacrificed. When a varjellen becomes smarter, it becomes slower or weaker. When it becomes faster or more graceful, it becomes less hardy or less intelligent, and so on. The process of alteration is called reforging. Varjellen can reforge themselves a maximum of once each day, and the process takes almost an hour. Young varjellen who have just learned to reforge can do it in half the time, but as the body ages, the process takes longer, so an hour is average.
Varjellen are sexless until they wish otherwise, at which point they can adopt organs to take on either a male or female gender for reproductive purposes. Obviously, once a varjellen has become pregnant, she retains female characteristics until she gives birth approximately six months later. Humans are incapable of discerning any difference between the varjellen who take on gender and those who do not.Varjellen live 250 years or more and typically reproduce only once, always giving birth to twins.
Like humans, they breathe oxygen, require food and water, and so on. However, they are herbivorous and cannot digest meat. By human standards, they prefer particularly spicy food and very strong liquor. Mostviruses and toxins that affect humans affect the varjellen as well, although there are rare differences. Their eyesight is at least half again as good as a human’s, but their hearing is a bit worse. They have no sense of smell.
Aside from these physical characteristics, the varjellen share some general personality traits (though individuals obviously differ). Humans often find them cold, ponderous, and unemotional most of the time, but they can be unpredictably warm, impassioned, or erratic. Guarded around strangers, the varjellen are freer with information and casual behavior among those they trust. But often, a varjellen’s trust is difficult to win.
Many varjellen enjoy working with tools and are fascinated by devices of the past, though they care little for history in general, preferring to focus on the present and the future. They are drawn to mystery and exploration. The varjellen enjoy visual arts and music, but they have no concept of poetry or prose and don’t care much for stories.
Although they are reluctant warriors, the varjellen do what they must to protect themselves. They are almost never the aggressors in physical situations, but if necessary, they can be as devious or ruthless as any human (again, this varies from individual to individual). They value equality and fairness but may define these concepts differently than humans do. The varjellen need for justice gives them a deep desire to right wrongs—vengeance is well known among their kind.
Varjellen wear clothing not unlike human garments, but always leaving their crucible uncovered. As this organ is vulnerable, however, they must closely guard it in battle. Individuals typically paint, tattoo, or otherwise decorate their crest and head to express their own personality.