“I’ve forgotten this before.”
- A Thassali phrase used to describe a past life’s memory.
Also called “venerates” or “the reborn,” the Atavi are a people from the empire of Thassal who cut off long ago from their natural connection to the cycle of birth and rebirth. They preserved their kind by preserving their souls in palimpsests and transferring them to the next generation, and in this process imparting memories, knowledge, and traumas to their children. In the empire of Thassal the Atavi currently occupy a position of power, expanding their population through conquest and attracting immigrants.
During a war with Ackenzal, the regency of Thassal used forbidden magic to call down an star on their foes. As punishment for breaching the Starfall Truce, the High King of Ackenzal, using an ancient magic, unleashed the Rending on the people of Thassal. He cut off their connection to the Istós, removing the whole of the people from the cycle of rebirth. Any child born to an afflicted would be soulless and unmoving, and the souls of those that died would linger as wisps or roam as shades rather than reforming into new life.
The magi of the empire scrambled to find a way to save their people from extinction and found the answer in Oneiri magic. They created the palimpsests—objects in which a sentient soul could be stored, unfrayed, upon the time of death. When an atavus becomes pregnant, magi transfer a soul from a container called a “palimpsest” into the womb at the time of quickening. All atavi children remain fully braided to a palimpsest, so when they die their souls are stored once again. In this way the people of the empire live on, never growing, but never extinguished.
To be constantly reborn rattles a soul, making the Atavi distant and unnerving. They jumble their past lives with their present one, often overwhelmed by past memories of trauma. It is common for an atavus to enter a trance-like state as when they encounter “engrams”, or snags in the world that force a recollection of a past life. Some lose any sense of self, as the memory that gives structure to their being is entangled with the personalities and decisions of people they never were. Some become amnesic to their own lives, only able to remember events centuries past, and only those in passing. Those afflicted will intentionally pursue trauma, as it becomes their only way of accessing any memory. These dangerous Atavi are called Noxae.
The Atavi, like normal humans of their region, are dark-skinned, with densely curled and dry hair. They are physically distinguished by their unearthly stillness, especially of their eyes. Healthy atavi do not fidget or shift their gaze when idle, but hold still as a stone.
Atavi live just as long as a normal human, though they reach emotional and mental maturity much, much quicker. Most can speak by six months old, and at the age of twelve they reach the cognitive capacities of a normal adult, often with access to skills and knowledge far beyond their years. However, they also succumb to the mental effects of aging far sooner, with some doddering like old fools before their thirtieth year.
Atavi tend to dress in light, breezy clothing of the tropical region they live in. They are fond of brightly dyed clothing and preserve the fashions of centuries past. Shaven heads are typical among married men, and both genders mark their marital status with pierced ears.