Shani are, as they believe themselves to be, truly children of the shadows. Their culture is named in all aspects for the violence that has plagued them and their lands for centuries. They call the mountains flanks because they rise around them on what seems like all directions. In Jazt’a the symbols or morphemes that represent arms and weapons are distinguishable only to a trained sense. It is only after several excursions to the lands they call their own—The Blade—that we are able to parse their cultural sensibilities for understandable insights.
The foundational belief of their culture is not only in Sham’ayn, but in that they as a people have been cursed. Sham’ayn is known as Priestess of the Shadow and they are subsequently her children. According to The Am’n Sham’ayn believes that her children have been cursed as a result of her actions, and most shani share this belief, though who placed the curse and what it entails are a source of disagreement. Sham’ayn herself has been blamed for some of the ills that befall her children.
The existence of the broiska is one example of blame placed at Sham’ayn’s hands. Though it should be properly attributed to Quarrnyl, the creation of the animal is attributed to Sham’ayn instead, as the shani believe her to be the sole power over her domain. Acknowledgement of the other Deities exists, but their influence is not perceived by the shani. Those who blame Sham’ayn for the creature point out that it is an apex predator, one that will kill shani without much trouble and would take many to defeat it, should the need arise. However, other writings have cited the presence of the broiska as one of the few positive aspects of The Blade, forcing shani to come together and thus fostering civilization.
Though it does not appear to be as stark in practice, shani life is viewed as a rigid binary. There are two organizations of shani civilization: remnants and reigns. Reigns often have cities connected across entire continents and planet-stars while remnants struggle to maintain control of a single city due to reduced numbers, strength, resources, and armaments. Though remnants are not as secure, all shani communities care for their young, and leaving the relative safety of being classified as a youth is an important distinction for all shani. This decision is made through the completion of three rituals:
The first ritual shows the adult shani considering whether or not the young shani is ready whether they have enough mental or physical aptitude to survive without their protection. Across The Blade as the warming season approaches, horzab come down from the highlands into the grasslands and shed their winter coats in the process. The first ritual is to procure enough hair to make a wrap for the following cold season, an amount which usually requires more than one horzab’s full coat. A smart young shani will wait and accumulate partial coats from several horzab as they shed, and a strong shani will kill for what they need. The later is a much more dangerous option.
The second ritual is simplistic in theory. Young shani are tasked with creating an offering to Sham’ayn that is placed into a flaming urn. If the offering does not extinguish the fire the youth is accepted by Sham’ayn. Centuries of tradition and gamesmanship have turned the ritual into a test—especially in Reigns—of how close a shani can get to the minimum level of flammability without surpassing it. There are rumors of current Achrons across The Blade offering up pieces of solid metal that had been worked into symbolic shapes that did not extinguish the fire, and so it is said that these less flammable items—that is, items not carved entirely from wood or other such materials—show the individual shani to be favored by Sham’ayn.
The completion of the third and final ritual formally acknowledges the young shani’s completion of their youth and enters them into the adulthood phase. For this reason, some young shani put the ritual off, preferring to stay within the relative safety of the care of the community. The ritual involves leaving the formal land designation of the community on one’s own with enough time to forage materials to craft a mask. This mask is not permanent—many remake theirs upon rejoining the community as an adult—but serves as as one of their first forms of self expression. The ritual tests a shani’s ability to not only survive, but create entirely on their own.
Some shani it appears have a transcendent ability that is difficult to categorize [in any language] that does not render them immaterial—they are still mortal—but such magiks were not thought to be possessed by non-Ontautt. In the furthest reaches of The Blade, this ability is reportedly more common, and is said to be Sham’ayn’s gift to those who are subjugated to the harshness of the lands. It is said the furthest reaches of this space are inhospitable—not in the way that star-planets and celestial bodies close to Astran are—in the sense that only an adept physicality can survive. It is in these lands that the shani are themselves shadows.