Elegant, wise, and ancient, the Lilitai are sometimes said to represent the artistic soul of Thet. Their long lives and and esoteric culture make them seem mystical to outsiders, and in the past, some made false gods of themselves on primitive worlds which the declining Ksreskézaian Empire had abandoned. Their actions and emotions are mercurial to those who do not know them well, a chaos that invokes a kind of obedience which seeks to placate this turmoil.
In truth, every one is descendent from servitude under the last great aristocrats of the Ksreskézai
, and their Byzantine customs and indecision are the consequences of being so removed from their element. They carry (to some extent) old Ksreskézaian xenophobias, but resent their former masters, and live with a faint sense of unfulfilment caused by the absence of an immutable power structure. Their incredible lifespans, intended to grant a Ksreskézaian household continuity over the generations, gift them with the opportunity to accrue more knowledge than any other species, with the exception of the Lyrisclensiae
, which only serves to amplify their restlessness. Their customs obey a similar bifurcation: some are little rituals passed down from their grandmothers and great-grandmothers that are rooted in Ksreskézaian tradition, and others are synthetic attempts to avoid dependence on the past.
The average Lilitu stands between five and six feet in height, has a thin or slightly athletic build, and bears several distinctions from a standard post-human, which present-day Terrans might consider demonic, but actually derive from an attempt to emulate Ksreskézaian wildlife: large, bat-like wings of up to 14 feet in total wingspan which are not sufficient to enable flight (except in microgravity); a fully-articulate, spear-headed tail of up to four feet in length; and pointed ears and curled horns similar to those of the Ksreskézai themselves. Only females survive gestation.
Traditionally, these additions to their human anatomy have either a greyish or brownish colour, which reflects most of the biology on the Ksreskézaian homeworld, although hair and eye colour may be of a much broader range, and were often artificially or magically recoloured. Skin is universally fair, though was often even fairer on Kreskézo due to the harsh UV-heavy light that forced them to stay indoors. A minority of these ancient Lilitai had a distinctive grey sheen to their skin (e.g. Deztra Salnúkzoa
) because of the extremely high metal content in their environment, and exhibited exceptional resistance to metal poisoning. With the advent of phenotype respecifiers during the 3rd millennium on the iky
calendar, however, Lilitai began wearing much more diverse biological appearances.
Sex and gender
The Lilitai have a tetrapolar social role system
that they consider analogous to male and female gender roles in Ksreskézaian society (which, in turn, bear a striking, coincidental resemblance to primitive human gender roles.) Without a cultural reference frame, however, the Lilitai did not preserve anything resembling intentional femininity; while the Tshilda gender role can be called highly feminine, there was otherwise no pressure to adopt any particular personal mannerism.
When the Lilitai first met the Telai
, who were slightly polarized along gender lines due to continual contact, they thought the gender roles and social habits they observed in the mainline of humanity were evidence of mutual abuse.
Nevertheless, prolonged exposure to the rest of humanity reformed some Lilitic assumptions about the nature of sex and gender, and a small group (mostly Múnildai) eventually began to identify as transgendered. This group has variously been referred to as múnildoi
(sons of Lilith), and odzhroi
(masculine men); their preferred autonym is Egrekelo
. They faced a surprising amount of stigma from their sisters once they began using phenotype respecifiers to alter their genomes, as the Lilitu genome is incapable of developing males properly
; the amount of engineering required was seen as making them alien, and they are biologically incompatible with all other species. The Hatel
, who have an exceptionally high rate of transgender individuals, are generally seen as supporting the Egrekeloi in much the same way the Lyrisclensiae supported the Lilitai when they first arrived on Thet.
Lilitai young are particularly helpless, as they are under no pressure to develop to reproductive readiness, and were often raised by a Ksreskézaian obstetrician for part of their childhood to minimize the mother's maternity leave. The mother must guide her daughter for up to 50 tgc, and at first they learn very slowly, taking about five Thessian years to become literate in basic written language. However, their rate of learning improves from the stimulation their minds receive, and by the end of their childhoods they are efficient enough learners to be self-directed in their education, asking questions of others, reading books, and practising on their own without provocation.
In the Ksreskézaian social environment, picking up new customs was essential for the Lilitai, who could be expected to live throughout many deep cultural shifts as their long lives passed through the generations of their owners. On Thet, this eagerness for clear understanding and communication means that they fit into Lyrisclensian institutions of discovery quite well.
The Ksreskézaian Empire was largely restricted in its ability to grow by the strategic placement of the Tletkettoyic
homeworld, in the brane now known as Thet. Although the Empire's situation allowed it access to many planets, and many branes, the majority of these were lifeless or resource-poor, and reaching the rest of the universe could only be achieved by conquering the Tletketti, who were not interested in letting the warlike Ksreskézai move through their space.
This barrier had not, however, prevent other species from making their way in the opposite direction, although few did. A group of Telai
, sent from their colony to locate new potential allies to assist them in an internal matter, ran the Tletkettoyic border and jumped through into the first new brane their navigators could find—the concealed entryway to the Ksreskézaian homeworld. With no hope of return, they pushed on deeper into the new realm they had discovered, not realising that there was only one way out. Their ship was called the Rotomem
, and consequentially the dialect they spoke has been called Rotomemi by modern linguists.
Unable to leave the Ksreskézaian brane and low on supplies, the Rotomem
was forced to land, and its crew attempted to bargain with the Ksreskézai to let them terraform a small region of Ksreskézo into a habitable zone. The Ksreskézai found the body structure of the Telai to be quaint and amusing, and (quite wrongly) considered the humans' intellects lacking. They quickly reneged on their treaty, and took the humans into captivity, a story explained in some detail here
Soon, it became fashionable to alter them in various genetic forms as pets: most ended up with the familiar horns and long ears of the Lilitai, which corrected their "ugly bare foreheads," in the views of their alterers. The male sex was lost during this engineering, but that was viewed as no great calamity: the curves of the female body fascinated the Ksreskézai, who were themselves rather stout, and the Ksreskézai had deep-seated ideas about male power which they did not wish to be rivalled. The modern Lilitu, with wings and tail, was one of several designs based on Ksreskézaian fauna that ultimately won out for its elegance and preservation of the perceived charm of the original Telai form.
The pet-like treatment of the Lilitai never exactly faded, but over time the decadent Ksreskézai became so accustomed to the servitude of other species that it was only natural that their Lilitai should provide a function as well. In large households they became maids, governesses, and secretaries when social events did not call for their presence, even learning magic and gaining status as the head of staff in many houses, thereby becoming uniquely privileged amongst the Ksreskézaian Empire's subjects.
For millennia, the Lilitai grew accustomed to this role, until they were a firm and predictable feature of Ksreskézaian aristocracy, seemingly as ancient as the noble houses themselves, providing continuity to generations of the exoskeletal quadrupeds that grew up in the same homes. Their extraordinary lifespan was more of a curse than a blessing, as their owners did not wish to endure the pain of seeing their pets die or fade. (Although no Lilitu even came close to living out her full lifespan under the harsh conditions of life on Ksreskézo.) By the end of the Empire, Lilitai could be found in a wide range of secretarial and assistant jobs in all aspects of Ksreskézaian society, including military space traffic controllers, the performing arts, and editors for news periodicals, but always they remained associated with an aristocratic house.
Eventually the Hogedep
, one of the most fiercely independent of the Empire's enemies, developed a terrible weapon to use against their opponents: a computer virus, of sorts, that spread through the machines that allowed their magical fields to operate, and caused them to malfunction. The Ksreskézai had evolved to depend on these machines, and their misbehaviour began to destroy them from the inside out, as well as the very fabric of their branes, making many worlds which belonged to the Ksreskézai completely uninhabitable.
Their servants awoke one day to death in the streets; the entire Ksreskézaian race extinguished, and the brane enclosing their homeworld slowly transmuting into spacetime configurations that were completely incompatible with continued life. To escape, they had to learn to be independent. One great event, called Vendashro
, when the Lilitai worked together to repair a number of ships and escape, marked the genesis of the Lilitai as a people.
The Lilitai wandered amongst the surviving worlds that were formerly of the Ksreskézai, sometimes convincing dwellers of more isolated planets that they were gods, or represented the will of the Ksreskézaian Empire, but without the ability to back up these claims, they were eventually ousted, and soon resorted to barter to survive.
At one point they founded a colony on a barely-habitable world called Illera, and worked diligently to make it hospitable, but this collapsed following a great plague that lasted over a century. The plague was eventually defeated, but only at great cost to Lilitic population and talent.
Back in space and once more without a place to call their own, the Lilitai eventually wandered to the border of the Tletkettoyic Empire in search of a potential home amongst one of the independent planets that had been stuck between the Tletkettoyi and the Ksreskézai, but instead discovered that the same Hogedep invention that had destroyed the Ksreskézai had also killed the Tletkettoyi, leaving a pair of dead planets in an unstable manifold. This wandering lasted a full millennium on the old Ksreskézaian calendar, and was called the Pléovete il Naire, or Years of the Fringe.
The Lilitai were not sure how to proceed. They had no records of space-time branes beyond the Tletkettoyic microcosm, and agreed amongst their small number that if they were to proceed into further territory, they would need to prepare themselves first. Selectively, they rebuilt parts of Tletkettoyic technology to maintain themselves. They lived in camps nearby the ruins, should they need servicing, and founded the great cities of Anterograde and Retrograde Doisseia.
When the Lyrisclensiae arrived, the Lilitai knew little of what to do with them. Knowledge of these distant cousins had been lost, and at first hostility seemed like the logical best defence against such a great unknown, but rapidly the Lyrisclensian intellectual gifts showed their value to the Lilitai: upon finding and studying the magical field generators, they were able to improve the devices' efficiency by a significant margin, and restore subsystems that the Lilitai did not have the engineering skill to mend. It was not until the Hogedep arrived on Thet with military intentions in 107 iky
that wide-scale efforts to repair and protect the ruins of the Tletkettoyi began, however.
Return to Illera
Following the war, many Lilitai became convinced that they needed to seek shelter elsewhere once again, and in 1924 iky, after many years of mounting tensions between the Telai, Lyrisclensiae, and Cossipai, the Lilitai found themselves in need of a back-up plan. A small group returned to Illera to recolonize it, using Telaian terraforming technology to make the areas around their outposts much more hospitable than they once had been. Until the Shattering in 3274 iky, the Illeran colony was primarily a religious retreat for the Lilitai; thereafter many Lilitai and a small number of Lyrisclensiae were accepted as refugees. Many more refuges were admitted during the reign of the Gripsení Mitraje, as part of a temporary evacuation of Lilitai and Lyrsiclensiae from Thet.
The first slaves of the Ksreskézai spoke their own language, Rotomemi, which they had inherited directly from their free ancestors. As their relationship with their masters matured, however, their vocabulary was progressively replaced with that of their owners. Because the Ksreskézaian vocal organs are so complex, however, a completely independent phonology had to be derived, with its own combining rules, and hence master and slave never spoke the same dialect. The major Ksreskézaian languages spoken by the slaves are called Tshírafo, Oksiko, and Oksirapho, with Tshírafo being a pidgin and Oksiko and Oksirapho being almost purely Ksreskézaian languages.
The Ksreskézai linguistic matrix was very consonant-heavy and led to guttural speech that was clumsy and ill-suited to verse when wielded by a human tongue. Both Oksiko and Oksirapho were agglutinative languages through their many millennia of use, with Oksirapho tending more towards independent particles.
The free Lilitai were quick to reinvent their communication. They scrapped almost all of Ksreskézaian grammar and vocabulary, carrying over a few roots primarily for abusing and insulting others, and focused on capturing the beauty of their own experience, replacing Oksirapho in daily use with their new Lilitika
only a couple of years into their nomadic period. Lilitika underwent many grammatical fads over the subsequent ten centuries, but the bulk of the vocabulary and mechanics remained stable. It was still a largely agglutinative language, but garnered many rules for elision to facilitate natural and convenient speech, which Oksirapho had been relatively poor at accomplishing.
A more detailed history of the languages' evolution up to this point can be found here
When the Lilitai reached Thet and made contact with other human groups, Lilitika's purity and significance waned, for their population was much smaller than either that of the deeply-searching Lyrisclensiae, the long-wandering Telai, or the similarly unshackled Cossipai—to say nothing of ancient languages from Earth and the early colonies that still persisted. It remained an object of scholarly intrigue and as a private language passed from mother to daughter, but never gained a significant foothold in the larger community.
However, the later Thessian common tongue, Lilitic, owes much more than just its namesake to Lilitika. Lilitic began as a scholarly pidgin used in academia, owing in part to the prestige of Lilitika in literature, although Glissia (Lyrisclensian) was perhaps the largest contributor to the grammar and vocabulary; this suited the Lilitai just fine as most spoke Lyrisclensian by the time of its evolution.