The acitan (in their own language, the People of the Plains) are a technologically advanced species native to the Southern Basin, a vast caldera dominated by tropical savannah. The acitan are one of several sentient species in the area (the others are river dolphins, silvanshee, and dragons); there used to be more but the genetic experiments of the acitan caused the extinction of several sentient species during a Breach event. The edges of the crater are rimmed by mountains, which has kept the area evolutionarily isolated and to some extent protected its biodiversity--though these days, one couldn’t tell.
The Southern Basin might appear to be a paradise, but it’s really an evolutionary and ecological wasteland. There used to be hundreds of wildly different types. Six-legged gazelle-like creatures were preyed upon by giant crabs, and bronze manta rays known as vellicent darted through the air. But the acitan, to their eternal shame, are singlehandedly responsible for the extermination of dozens of those types. Now it is something like North America--dozens of species gone during a massive extinction event. Except it is worse, for the North American extinction did not wipe out entire families. And because of this, the acitan are zealously intolerant of anyone
, causing any potential damage to an ecosystem, especially the Southern Basin’s. Even the most calm, even-tempered acitan will kill without a second thought in defense of their already slowly collapsing biodiversity.
Curiosity is the blessing and the bane of the acitan, as is the drive to create and modify. It is not, as any acitan will quickly correct one thinking such things, because curiosity or the drives of the acitan are evil, far from it. Rather, it’s, in the words of the acitan ‘the fault of the bastards’. The ‘bastards’ are generally anyone who objects to the acitan digging around in the DNA of species and bending them to their own purposes. And that’s a lot of people. The lions do not particularly care for it, as poses a potential threat and clashes with their unliving machines anyway. The human church does not like it, for morphogical freedom goes against their philosophy.
Despite their cavalier attitude towards gene meddling, the acitan do have limits. Experimentation on sentients without written consent obtained without threats or trickery is strictly prohibited, and violating that rule is practically an automatic death sentence, with the style of execution usually being whatever the locals think is the most painful (usually being vivisected while unsedated). Modification of animals (especially ones with large brain mass) to make them subservient is frowned upon, as are permanent non-health-related gene modifications to one’s own body if one plans on having children (part of complete morphogical freedom is getting to be born as a blank slate). Plants, however, can be freely modified without even the slightest disapproval.
Acitan are born with innate affinities towards gene meddling. Indeed, it is something that seems almost instinctual. At a young age, when a acitan opens their eyes for the first time and look onto the world, their first thoughts are not only how astounding the world is, it is also what could
be. Because before all things, acitan are creatures of possibility, envisioning countless potential futures, always hoping for a better one. Destroying the possibility for a better tomorrow is regarded with complete horror--which is quite possibly one of the few reasons why acitan society haven’t ended up weaponizing plagues (so the general consensus is that it would probably be better to make sure the acitan stay that way).
Their psychology is... unfortunate. The acitan look at the world, and they cannot feel wonder, or joy. They just see sadness and suffering. The best among them can channel that grief into rage, and that rage into passion. But in general the acitan are a very sad species. There is a disconnect between the world they think should
be and the world that is. And this gives them pain. They are separated from the world emotionally, and most will never truly feel
, at least not anything but loss.
The acitan species physically resembles an anthropomorphic cheetah, similar to the ash cats of the Elemental Plane of Fire (in fact, the ash cats are an offshoot group that left the main acitan civilization in protest of the modification of animals for the purpose of making life easier for the acitan, though the movement hardly left with them and has been gaining ground recently). Similar to the ash cats, they’re insanely quick, the result of generations of messing around with their own genomes before their culture disapproved of such changes. They’re also more intelligent than the average species. Due to the fragility of the local ecosystem, they cannot hunt and so over time have developed strong moral aversions against killing to eat, and most acitan, ironically enough, can’t process animal matter effectively--nor can they process plant matter effectively, due to their short intestinal tract, without consuming a special plant that is the relative of the pothos and thankfully grows as easily as it. They still have the instincts of a predator, though.
While acitan aren’t physically strong or sturdy, they make a point of teaching their children the basics of how to fight so that they have a better chance of surviving a rogue organism. Of course, the acitan haven’t gotten rid of their instincts yet, and have no urge to, so cubs are born with some capacity to fight. At a young age acitan also receive at least rudimentary training in the sciences--it’s nearly unheard of to meet an acitan who couldn’t go on at length about biology.
The acitan worship no deities. The concept of worship is itself foreign to them. However, acitan are known to consort with a variety of supernatural beings of high caliber, including deities. The Order of Transcendence, one of the the larger movements in acitan society, even has deities in high positions, most notably Kulcol, a couatl whose followers (not worshippers but those who view him as a philosophical leader) claim that he became a diety through understanding of the natural world (whether that is true is, I think, not for me to determine).
The biotechnology of the acitan is ubiquitous. Genetically engineered trees and large shrubs form small housing complexes, and vines connect to the plants to carry in water from underground aquifers. Modified fungus stretches across hundreds of square kilometers to form the acitan equivalent of telegraph lines. Giant mushrooms light up at night. Slime molds stretched over wood to form hang gliders, but with tiny sacs holding hydrogen, are piloted to carry supplies from area to area. And animals have been modified as well, in an attempt by the acitan to keep their ecosystem stable or as products of acitan paying little regard to the opinions of their fellows. In the Southern Basin, it’s anything but uncommon to run into a variety of organisms that are clearly not of natural origin--many creatures that in other places would have their abilities work by supernatural processes (and therefore not work in an antimagic field) work by natural means in the Southern Basin. But most of the non-natural creatures in the Southern Basin don’t have breeding populations and are quickly dying out--perhaps a good thing, since many of those same creatures are extremely territorial and don’t fit into the ecosystem.
If the acitan had had their way, no biotech experiments would be roaming around, but the same humans and lions that hate the biotechnology of the Southern Basin with a passion attempted to use force to convince the acitan to stop, destroying nurseries and setting free dozens of experiments.
Mammals of the Southern Basin are mostly similar to what you’d find in East Africa. The types present, though, are limited to felines (species are cheetah, lion, leopard, black-footed cat, serval, and wild cat), canines (African wild dog, black-backed jackal), ungulates (limited to various species of gazelle), cetaceans (a species of river dolphin superficially similar to the spinner dolphin), mustelids (a species of otter living in the rivers), and bats (fruit bats). While that sounds like a fair bit of variety, there’s a lot that’s not there--for instance, pachyderms, rodents, many species of ungulate, microbats, foxes, mongooses, pangolins, etc. Rodents are extinct due to a genetically engineered raptor, though thankfully there’s a species of crustacean that’s expanded to fill the niche.
Crustaceans of the Southern Basin include a variety of land crabs, most of which radiated (with help) to patch the gap left by the demise of rodents, but it’s a temporary fix at best, because the land crabs need water for their eggs, so during drought years there are mass wildlife dieoffs and insect surges. A segmented creature similar to a giant velvet worm but covered with armored plates and with large crab legs is also native to the area, but lives underground and is rarely seen.
Birds of the Southern Basin are currently exclusively hummingbirds. There are promising signs that they may be radiated, though, to start eating insects, especially locusts.
Reptiles and amphibians of the Southern Basin are currently what’s holding the ecosystem together. Besides the usual East African fauna (minus a few species of fairly unremarkable snake), several species of tortoise the size of elephants knock down trees and a variety of snake, but with scales adapted into shark-like fins, consumes fish.
Insects of the Southern Basin are pretty much the exact same as what you’d find in East Africa. If East Africa had butterflies with meter-wide wingspans and lungs. Fish are the same. The local plants come from Southern Africa.
At first glance, an acitan can pass for a cheetah (if they bother trying at all). This is because acitan have the ability to walk on four legs or two relatively easily due to the joints of their hips. And since what usually distinguishes them from cheetahs is the fact that they can walk upright (most of the rest of their body morphology is the same), an acitan can if they want look nearly identical--useful for pretending to be a ‘stupid cat’. Many acitan are actually more comfortable on all fours, since they haven’t fully adapted to a bipedal gaint (they get back pain if they’re upright for too long).
Acitan have long, articulated front toes that have formed into something almost exactly like a hominoid hand. The difference is that acitan retain a dewclaw, which is kept extremely sharp. When an acitan really want to hurt someone, they don’t attack with their rather blunt front claws, they attack with their dewclaw.
The teeth of the acitan are virtually identical to those of Acinonyx jubatus
--they are adapted for a diet of meat rather than plants (though the shearing carnissal teeth are useful for slicing up plant matter as well), despite the fact that acitan have lost the ability to effectively digest meat. Textured soy is a popular food among acitan, and they can make it so close to actual meat that the most dedicated carnivores would never be able to tell the difference in texture or taste. They would, however, be perfectly capable of telling it apart by the gastrointestinal problems they would experience shortly after eating the false meat, if their digestive systems weren’t built to take it.
Generally, acitan coat patterns aren’t that different from a normal cheetah’s. Rarely, though, an acitan will be born with king cheetah coat patterns, or an abnormally reddish coat. That is believed by the acitan to be due to inbreeding with the ash cats, but those acitan still aren’t fire resistant, though they do seem to have an affinity for fire, especially fire magic.
Acitan biotechnology is their proudest achievement. It is what their culture centers around, what their spirituality centers around. It doesn’t matter if it’s been done dozens of times before. Acitan pass knowledge vertically by an apprentice system, and an apprentice is expected to show their brilliance by making discoveries independently
. An acitan isn’t considered worthy of the title of biomancer unless xe is capable not only of following instructions for the creation of a device but figuring out how the device works and making it completely independently, only knowing the end result and maybe a few steps and the supply list. Of course, not all acitan are biomancers, various other scientific disciplines focusing on pure knowledge are rather common among them, but the notion of mass-produced biotechnology is the equivalent of blasphemy among the acitan. There are guilds, and they do not take kindly to any attempts to mass-produce biotechnology.
Aesthetics focus on organic shapes and bioluminescence. The quintessential piece of acitan biotechnology is an amorphous mass of plant matter studded with glowing lights. The vast majority of acitan biotechnology is focused on systems, whether those systems are chemical, biological, memetic, or ecological. Screwing up a system is, of course, always vastly easier than fixing one or creating one, but weapons are a fairly minor application of acitan biotechnology; most of it is sensors (mostly oriented towards rapid DNA scans), ecosystems biotechnologies (a field that ranges from biological pest control agent breeding hives to artificial habitats), and materials synthesis (with the material being synthesized varying from glass, gemstones, and metals); with medical applications (including cloning and genetic modifications for recreational and optimization purposes) and communications (almost entirely limited to applications of the FungusNet) coming in second; followed by transportation (overwhelmingly aerial).
Acitan sensors tend not to be remote, though there’s certainly a place for that. The most popular acitan sensors are derivatives of various carnivorous plants, with the readout being displayed on what is really just a giant leaf (and usually is the only leaf), which changes color and generally acts like a computer screen. The same sort of leaf membrane is used for various other sensor applications, with the genetic code being modified so that the membrane is sensative to anything from different wavelengths of light, sound waves (which the acitan have used to make a sort of sonar), electromagnetic fields, or different chemicals. The plant itself usually doesn’t have roots, instead having the sensor attached by a flexible stem to the leaf-screen. Due to the acitan emphasis on biotechnology and changing genetic coding, DNA sensors are one of the most frequently produced devices. A decent acitan DNA reader is capable of not only reading DNA and matching it to a known species, it can predict fairly reliably what an individual will look like based on DNA and what traits different regions of DNA code for. Many can even be hooked up to a DNA modification device (which works by deploying DNA walkers) to custom-build an organism.
Ecosystems biotechnologies are, understandably, one of the biggest areas of acitan science. Rather amusingly, the acitan have moved from wrecking entire ecosystems accidentally to being one of the most talented species in regards to preserving ecosystems. The majority of acitan ecosystems biotechnology focuses on maintenance, whether that’s artificial pollinator hives or varieties of plants that are especially useful for supporting certain species or preventing erosion. For the most part such biotechnologies are designed to blend into the landscape; the acitan are particularly talented at modifying species of trees to serve their purposes--most acitan buildings are actually living quiver trees.
Materials synthesis is one of the more difficult aspects of acitan biotechnology. Synthesizing drugs and biodegradable resins (and by that I mean actual tree resin; albeit modified) are easy, of course, and paper is very easy ever since the acitan discovered papyrus, but the acitan have a variety of applications that require metal, or minerals, and that requires some of the most complicated coding in acitan biotechnology--forcing tubers to act as factories for the production of materials that often require a great deal of heat without having the tuber burst into flames and die. The tuber itself is usually a modified form of ginger that contains natural fire retardants and is heat resistant (using the genetic code of extremophile bacteria for the purpose), with the inside replaced by whatever’s being synthesized.
The acitan’s medical biotechnologies focus on gene therapy. One of the first things acitan learn is how to make substantial changes to an organism while not altering its gametes; something which is the basis of most actian biotechnology. Acitan also modify their own DNA for practical purposes and for pleasure; acitan frequently sport modifications such as toxic blood, eyes with telescopic lenses, eidetic memories, drastically increased agility, and increased regenerative abilities. Cloning is one of the most heavily researched biotechhnologies due to the recent efforts by the acitan to clone extinct species. Bacterial and viral infections are fought by phage therapy.
The FungusNet is one of the acitan’s proudest achievements: a huge web of mycelium stretching across the whole of the Southern Basin, with giant mushrooms in the center of settlements acting as routers, storage spaces, and terminals. It’s possible to access without a mushroom by hooking up a leaftop (basically an acitan tablet) to one of the main mycelium lines by a specialized electronics stem, but such use is fairly uncommon. Mostly it’s used by members of the shadownet, which is the same as the normal FungusNet but used for things that an acitan might not exactly be comfortable doing in the middle of a settlement. There’s been some experimentation in wireless routers, but so far they’ve not been very powerful.
Acitan transportation is almost always aerial; it’s faster and the acitan are naturally inclined to flying since they used to ride the vellicent. Their crafts are generally shaped like stylized manta rays, but made of plant matter stretched across wooden frames. The engines are high-powered chemical rockets and resemble teardrops attached to the bottoms and tops of the wings. To make the craft more agile dozens of tiny thrusters dot the wings, and the main engines can be moved.
Weapons are usually electrolasers made by combining a biological laser with a structure made using the genes of an extinct species of catfish.
Ecology of the Southern Basin:
The climate of the Southern Basin is abnormal for that of a savannah in the area. The humidity and heat levels are more akin to an equatorial region than someplace hundreds of miles away. The humidity is kept in by the mountains, which is also why you can find what may, with the nurturing of the acitan, eventually turn into a rainforest next to the mountains, and scrubby semidesert in the center. But there’s a lot of savannah in between; the radius of the Southern Basins (which, I might add, is pretty much perfectly circular) makes it about the size of the Northern Prairie ecoregion.
The heat is due to the fact that the mantle is very
close to the surface in the Southern Basin. Uncomfortably close, in fact. The Southern Basin has normal lakes, but they also have quite a few lava lakes that are remarkably stable, by which I mean they’ve been active for a few hundred thousand years. Due to the heat conductive properties of the rock in the area, the heat of the mantle rises up to the savannah and heats it. There are forms of life in the Southern Basin that resemble giant worms and live off heat, or rather temperature differentials (they have one end at the surface and the other end a few hundred feet down).
The lava lakes are, rather ironically, one of the most pristine areas in the Southern Basin, quite possibly because nothing the acitan made and accidentally released was capable of being immersed in liquid rock for more than a few seconds. The lakes and the islands of rock in them are home to lava cats (pretty much the same as the Nigerian lava cats, which I created, from the Wanderer’s Library), a few ash cat settlements, and various varieties of ‘fish’ that mostly live off extremophile bacteria species. While the lakes are, for the most part, isolated from the Southern Basin, the ash cats of the lakes are known to make extremely sharp weapons out of the armor of lava cats, and sometimes will trade them.
Along the mountain peaks are huge clouds of atmospheric plankton, stirred up by the constant winds. Aside from them, nothing else can live in the region, and their predators have been exterminated by a now-extinct parasite. The acitan must prevent the plankton from spreading into the rest of the Southern Basin or risk them consuming the plant matter of the area, and so have set up magical barriers. A side effect of the magical barriers is that the mountain peaks are shrouded in a constant lightning storm; lightning several hundred times a minute per square kilometer. The acitan are grateful for these storms; whenever someone tries to invade them they usually think they can get through the storms, which they invariably cannot without turning most of their invading force into a crisp.
Dragons, I might add, are fairly common in the Southern Basin. By far the most common are brass dragons (which look like they do in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, not as they do in Pathfinder), but are also present. For decades there were no dragons in the Southern Basin, with the same circumstances surrounding the Great Breach being responsible for them leaving the Basin, but over the past few years they’ve been returning. The acitan take this as a very good sign. The dragons were veritable fountains of knowledge and were highly respected--even if they had no interest in biotechnology.
Silvanshee are a species of outsider that came to the area long, long ago. Long enough ago that there’s no telling where they came from. Their civilization is near the acitan one, by which I mean that it’s a rare acitan settlement that doesn’t have a population of silvanshee as well. Interestingly, acitan and silvanshee are interfertile; with the overall phenotype of the offspring being determined by the mother. However, a crossbreed born of an acitan mother will have a natural affinity for sorcery, and a crossbreed born of a silvanshee mother will have the same instinctual knowledge of biology that characterized the acitan. These traits aren’t inheritable, though. There are, however, traits that crossbreeds have that are inheritable: for a silvanshee mother, large adult size of the offspring, acitan-like coat patterns, green or amber eyes, and only semiretractable claws; for an acitan mother, black coat, violet eyes, and fully retractable claws. Silvanshee-acitan relations aren’t particularly rare; both species are pretty indiscriminate in their liasons.
The rivers (many of which are bioluminescent at night) of the Southern Basin are entirely contained within it. They bubble up from springs in the ground, travel a ways, and then terminate in lakes. The water is extremely clear, with the bottom of the rivers being limestone and creatures like corals trapping silt and digesting the organic matter in it. Most of the organisms in the rivers are evolutionarily leftovers from a period when the Southern Basin wasn’t cut off, but a relatively recent product is the snark, which resembles nothing so much as a water snake with two scales modified into long fins like that of a blue shark; and of course the native land crabs have been endlessly modified to fill the gap left by the rodents, even if they do a lousy job during drought years.
One might note that despite the fact that the Basin has been evolutionarily isolated and is for the most part populated with wildlife and displaying a fossil record consistant with an evolutionarily history close to identical to that of Africa’s, there are such creatures as kangaroos. This is due to the occasional teleportation accident. Such things only happen rarely, but sometimes enough of a species will be teleported that they’ll establish a breeding population, if one without a very healthy range of genotypes.
I have created a species list, which I sincerely doubt anyone will read. I’ve left fungus and microscopic organisms off, because I do have a life, even if it doesn’t seem like it most of the time.
Art and Music in Acitan Society:
Acitan art and music have, at their heart, biotechnology and the innate tendencies of the acitan to be aesthetically attracted to certain themes. They also show the acitan’s struggle with their emotional emptiness and their drive to feel full emotional depth. While the acitan’s chaotic bent means that one can find a great variety, overall trends can still be observed.
Acitan art is not separated from ‘lower crafts’. The most commonly seen acitan art is actually their biotechnology, which is designed not only to work but to be beautiful as well—it is as much art as textiles or pottery is. This is opposed to ‘fine art’ which is art intended solely for aesthetic purposes. For the purposes of this writing, however, I’ll appreviate ‘fine art’ to ‘art’.
Most acitan art that isn’t calligraphy works with light. The acitan find light, especially that produced by bioluminescence, to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and almost all acitan art is bioluminescent and meant to be viewed at night. Often this takes the form of sculptures, which are not only meant to be looked at but felt and interacted with. With the aid of the silvanshee, acitan have been known to sculpt light into displays of flowing ribbons that are independent of any physical structure. Sculpture that doesn’t work with light is usually either meant to be interacted with or is dynamic, constantly in motion.
Poi is also used for the art of sculpting light. The acitan are lovers of light poi, which are basically like fire poi except emit light rather than fire. This light can be of any color the user chooses, and it’s not unknown for the color to change slowly throughout the performance. The dance itself is usually a graceful affair that manages to convey both inner peace and a feral mindset. A good poi dancer is <i>almost</i> as appreciated as a good biomancer. The tradition of poi dancing dates back to the tribalistic past of the acitan, when it was also used to send signals over a long distance at night, similar to sephamore code.
Currently, there is a growing movement among acitan artists that an ecosystem can itself serve as art. To some extent that belief has always been present; the acitan have a long tradition of bonsai forests with small animals introduced, but the members of the new movement take that practice even farther. They deliberately change a small part of the ecosystem, often like the more permanent and massive works of artists like Andy Goldsworthy but with more living parts, to evoke specific emotions in the viewer. This sort of art is meant to become part of the landscape and the ecosystem, adding to it. Many older acitan find this idea foolish. The consequences of the acitan meddling with entire ecosystems for their own purposes is too fresh in their minds, and while they recognize that the members of the new movement are generally careful, there is still the concern of them slipping up.
Painting and drawing are respected arts among the acitan. Most of their ‘painting’ is really coding leaves with incredible detail to show a multicolored picture, but watercolor and oils are used by acitan painters to create truly beautiful images. Subject matter varies, but is usually either abstract (often using luminescent pigments) or of a living organism. Landscapes aren’t unknown but are fairly rare, and one almost never sees anything like the Hudson River School’s landscapes. Drawing utilizes thin, hard stems that work like pens, and when used for the arts typically has the same subject matters as painting. Of late the acitan have developed a biotechnology that creates spark graps between drawn lines, and this biotechnology is quickly finding its way into the arts.
Photography exists among the acitan, but is more regarded as a tool for the sciences than any real art. This attitude is changing, but only slowly.
Acitan music can best be described as similar to ‘New Age’ ethnoambient or space music, produced using modified plants. Besides pleasure, the acitan use this music for inducing specific varieties of trances, which generally improve focus. The Order of Transcendence often uses this form of music to attempt to assist their journey into transcendence.
Musicians have to travel to earn money in the Southern Basin. The biotechnology required for producing sound is complicated to code and difficult to maintain, and most acitan don’t have access to it. Furthermore, most acitan musicians have visual displays of some sort to go along with their music.
With the introduction of the FungusNet, acitan literature is rapidly mutating. In contrast to our world, where the emphasis online is often how short someone can be, the acitan’s thought processes have become more slow and methodical using the FungusNet, and the new literature reflects that. Formerly, acitan were not inclined to write long works, or ones that were overly complicated and layered with subtle meanings. Currently, the increasing trend is to write novels hundreds of pages long that touch on scientific, philosophical, sociological, and political issues. And the FungusNet has given these writers a very receptive audience, one frequently willing to exchange favors in return for the writing (and the acitan do have books still; the FungusNet isn’t ever going to replace papyrus). Acitan poetry is free verse and designed to either explore a concept or induce a specific emotional state in the reader. It hasn’t changed at all since the introduction of the FungusNet.
Writing and Language:
Acitan writing uses an expanded version of the Vai script, and their language is similar to Swahili, but many of the words are said with distinctive trills and chirps. Sentence structure is similar to that of the English language. In addition to the common glyphs, acitan synthesists (synthesia is relatively common among acitan) have created a language of pure feelings and thoughts that can be felt by looking at particular glyphs. Rather interestingly, these glyphs have almost exactly the same effect on all synthesist acitan, despite the fact that the effects should vary. Some of these glyphs have been weaponized by lone acitan, but such actions (except in the most dire circumstances) are illegal in most settlements.
Calligraphy is an important art form among the acitan, with the traditional style being one of flowing organic shapes. Some acitan buck the tradition by introducing jagged and geometrical forms, but generally such deviations are uncommon, as the acitan seem to be preprogrammed to love flowing organic shapes. Most of the most highly prized acitan calligraphy is deliberately altered slightly to evoke feelings associated with the subject being written about uses a form of applied synthesia (even acitan without synthesia will sometimes experience faint ghosts of the syndrome), and written in different colors that seem to blend seamlessly together.
Acitan synthesists are considered savants in the area of calligraphy. Many have described the writing process as recording glyphs floating around them, and sometimes they will use their fingers to manipulate glyphs in the air, lining them up or moving them out of the field of vision. Such is very rare, and those acitan are in high demand in many areas, because they often also have superb eidetic memories and the ability to create mental constructs that they can interact with in the visual and auditory realms. The most brilliant acitan ever have been the savants; they have been integral in dozens of breakthroughs.
Despite this, acitan savants have a major disadvantage: The Distance is greater for them than any other acitan. The most talented savants among the acitan often feel like eldritch creatures from Beyond, seeing things in a different scope than all but the most enlightened mortals--their minds often stretch across entire continents and through eons when thinking about things like consequences of major decisions. Sometimes this turns into flat-out arrogance, but many of those savants channel their emotional distance from life around them to try and become a benevolent being, if one often inscrutable and distant.
Non-Acitan in Acitan Society:
Some of the most important creatures in acitan society are not felines, but crabs. Crabs are considered by the acitan to be one of their success stories (which might be a sign of something besides confidence; crabs are notoriously bad at filling the niche of rodents in drier areas), and the acitan have adopted several species of crab for use in their settlements.
Robber crabs are the largest species of non-magical land crab known to the acitan, even taking ancestral forms only known from fossils into account. While the acitan have found fossilized specimens of crabs far larger, these were solely aquatic, or magical, as they wouldn’t have been able to support their own weight on land without structures like carbon nanotubes or metals (which would have left traces that have never been found despite extensive searching). And so the robber crabs serve both as companions and beasts of burden, carrying moderately heavy loads that the acitan can’t without being seriously encumbered. They are fairly affectionate creatures, at least for invertebrates (probably due to the process of domestication) and can be taught very simple sign language that builds on the communication they already use their claws for. Some robber crabs have been seen to learn not only sign language, but context—they make the sign for water not whenever they find water, but when they need to divert someone’s attention to the water. The possibility of acitan-like intelligence on the part of robber crabs is a very controversial matter, but most of the evidence indicates that they are as intelligent as a very very stupid acitan (and they are—in game terms, most are Int. 3 and a few are Int. 5). Everybody agrees, however, that they’ll get more intelligent as time goes on, because recently mate selection has been based on intelligence, not how large claws are. As they’ve grown more intelligent, robber crabs have also had an increase in lifespan; the smartest ones can live a hundred years and be sentient the whole while.
Due to a retrovirus released during the Great Breach, many species (little file snakes, river crabs, cheetahs, and bats being the only ones with significant proportions of the population affected) have sentient populations. The little file snake is the most affected one, with a sentient population spanning across the entire Llaw Drainage Area of the Southern Basin (and one of their main strongholds is near where Korinko lived). There’s talk among them of establishing themselves as a separate species, but so far such proposals have been overruled as foolish at best—the file snakes are mortally afraid of inbreeding. Like the silvanshee, file snakes often will live in acitan settlements, acting as scouts and technicians underwater and in tight places that even the silvanshee can’t fit into.
Many of the completely sentient species, especially the dragons, act much as acitan, but are acknowledged to have different specialities (and often, greater intellect) than the vast majority of acitan.
The Order of Transcendence:
The Order of Transcendence is one of the major philosophical groups in the Southern Basin, and one of their biggest hopes. The Order holds that through study of a subject, one can achieve a sort of oneness with the subject, and possibly even transcend mortal existence. A biologist achieves enlightenment through studying biology, a chemist by studying chemistry, etc. While book studying is an important part of this process, it is the least important pat.
The universe, according to the Order of Transcendence, is an objective one, made of matter and reaction. It is not consensual; the rules of reality might be able to be bent but they cannot be broken—if one of the rules can be broken, it isn’t a rule. Mind is a sort of separate reality, a ‘virtual reality’ of sorts. By having the mind’s inner reality (which is how it understand reality) be brought closer to reality itself, the mind’s inner reality will begin to mimic reality—even in areas that haven’t explicitly been studied. Therefore, someone whose understanding of reality is very good in one area will be able to guess very accurately things in that area that they don’t know about—an acitan who never goes beyond the Southern Basin would be able to make an excellent guess about a species of crocodile they had never heard of half a world away—not simply by making a wild guess, but by extrapolating based on continental drift and evolutionary history and climatic patterns and general ecology. At higher levels, the mind can achieve a sort of unity with the universe, similar to the concept of enlightenment among some cultures.
Study of this sort cannot be thrust upon someone. Each individual must seek out knowledge for themselves; the process of discovery is essential to enlightenment and transcendence. Books and teachers are all well and good, but to learn from only them is missing out on the most important part of science and study. Those who teach and are members of the Order of Transcendence often make their assignments not to repeat what has been already learned, but to do research and discover something independently—or discover something totally new.
Politically, the Order of Transcendence is inclined towards a technocracy, similar to how currently acitan government works, but also have distinctly socialistic tendencies. In their view, a socialistic society makes it easier for any one person to devote larger amounts of time to attempting to reach transcendence or enlightenment than one where one must constantly struggle for survival if one has the misfortunate to be born into poverty. Because of this view, the Order of Transcendence is also involved in many civil rights efforts. While it might seem like a rather heartless reason, the Order’s members usually are involved in civil rights and progressive causes for more than one reason.
Membership among the Order of Transcendence is highest among acitan, especially among the biomancers, many of whom end up becoming summoners (their study of zoology enables them to summon interplanetary and interuniversal beings—at least, that’s what they attribute it to). Silvanshee and ash cats come in second, and they usually study the magical arts—not just practical things like shooting fireballs, but how magic works and how it interacts with the nonmagical world. The rest are a mix of outsiders, dragons and coatls, and various uplifted animals.
The Order of Transcendence has no religion. It is apatheistic, not particularly caring if entities are deities or not. Deities, argue the Order, are often idiots. Some of the most powerful deities are fools incapable of transcendence, wrapped up entirely in themselves and unable to see the world. A few deities are respected, but only because they have shown themselves to be capable of transcendence—one, Kulcol, is rumored to have become a god through transcendence. A member of the Order of Transcendence would calmly correct a deity to their face, even on a matter pertaining to their portfolio. The notion of according deities any sort of status as ‘superior beings’ is alien to them—most in fact look down on the vast majority of deities as childish fools. And fairly often will say so to their face without batting an eye. The deities who spend any time in the Southern Basin (deity, really—Kulcol is the only deity who’s even vaguely interested in the area, given that it is one of the least religious areas on the planet and there are quite a few beings capable of killing deities in the Southern Basin) don’t mind that sort of thing, generally, and often appreciate it.
When the Southern Basin comes to mind, so do the acitan. Which is understandable, given that the acitan are the most populous sophont in the Southern Basin and that they are currently sending out scientists to gather specimens for rewilding projects and to generally expand their knowledge of the natural world. In reality, though, the oldest sophont species is not the acitan. It is the silvanshee.
Originally, the Southern Basin was simply a broad expanse of savannah in an even broader ecoregion. Eventually it was settled by the Ashmanti several million years ago, who built vast golden cities of wondrous magic. They were a peaceful species, but their civilization was accident prone. The most obvious time they messed up is the Southern Basin--the entire pocket of magma was drained allowing the Southern Basin to collapse into it. But many creatures with no obvious evolutionarily record were accidentally created by the Ashmanti, as were some living spells that still roam the landscape.
Magic called to the Ashmanti, but their basic nature made their magic wild. Most of the time the spell went right with nothing more than some basic oddities--fireballs of twinkling green stars, walls of fire that were shaped like dozens of ice needles--and the Ashmanti could make the wildness of the magic work with them, but for the most powerful spells, the chance of wild magical energies spinning out of control was extremely high. When that happened, the potential for disaster was great. Eventually it got to the point where not only the Southern Basin was being threatened by the rampaging magical energies. The entire world was.
Then the silvanshee, the spies of their civilization, took notice of the Southern Basin. The silvanshee saw the potential threat posed by the Ashmanti and vowed as one to end it. And so the silvanshee, the least of the agathions, took on one of the greatest tasks ever performed by their kind.
The silvanshee assault was twofold. Firstly, their sorcerors immediately began a magical assault on Ashmanti holdings, carefully attacking to destroy weaker fortifications as rapidly as possible--and to make a powerful impression while appearing too weak to harm major fotifications. Areas of utter blackness, filled with alien stars; minature auroras; and freezing, apparently solid, beams of starlight tended to do that. The silvanshee walked the void between stars and between reality, and their magic became tinged with it. And the silvanshee themselves became tinged with the void. Their minds stretched and warped, learning to accomodate alien geometries from places like Outside.
Secondly, the silvanshee, with aid from the magic of their sorcerors, stalked the inside of the Ashmanti strongholds even as their magical attacks appeared to be ineffective. Important documents would go missing. Shipments would be diverted. Ashmanti government was paralyzed. And then the silvanshee struck, using their magic to wipe entire fortifications off the face of the Southern Basin. In a day and a night, the Ashmanti were killed, or their magic bound. Every last one. The silvanshee had nearly committed genocide. This was not an organized, systematic thing--the Southern Basin was, for a brief time, one giant battleground. Nevertheless, it was done, and it will always weigh on the consciousess of the original silvanshee.
Then it was left to the silvanshee survivors to pick up the pieces. Artifacts of the Ashmanti were destroyed, as were their cities. The Southern Basin was left the way it was, with the hope that the silvanshee, too stained by the shame of what they had done to return to their home plane, could live out the remainder of their days in peace. Any Ashmanti survivors were, after their magic was bound, sent across the planes to the home plane of the silvanshee.
But because of the secrets the silvanshee had unearthed, the deeds they had done, and the powers they had learned, something in them had snapped. Dozens went completely psychotic. For the rest, it was not an obvious, blatant thing. Rather, it was subtle. The true origin of the Distance is the silvanshee, and their interbreeding with the acitan spread it to them. But the silvanshee have it worse, much worse, even worse than the highest acitan savants. They scattered across the planes. Most died, or exist as poor, broken things--many of which are in the Gloom (assuming the Gloom makes it into the campaign), cloaked in mists that hide their true form, long deformed as their shame has externalized. But the silvanshee did not feel at home, no matter where they went; they always felt haunted by accusing eyes, even when there were none, even when everybody wanted to comfort them and soothe their pain. Instead, they naturally gravitated towards the place where they had originally traveled--the Southern Basin. There, they waited. Since the silvanshee do not age or die of natural causes, being outsiders, their population quickly grew to compensate for their reduced numbers. Most of the original silvanshee eventually died--out of boredom, most silvanshee believe, but in reality the weight on their souls crushed them. Literally. There are only a couple thousand of them left.
The acitan had already begun to evolve, despite the best efforts of the Ashmanti to prevent it. But the destruction of the Ashmanti released energies that even the silvanshee do not fully understand, causing rapid speciation and an accelerated pace of evolution. The fall of the Ashmanti is, in large part, responsible for the (former) sheer diversity of fauna and flora in the Southern Basin, just as much as their rise was responsible for the Southern Basin forming in the first place. The very environment was conductive to life, almost like it was positive-dominant. It wasn’t, of course, and it wasn’t conductive to life in the same way--it was conductive to biodiversity, especially in the levels of phylum and class, rather than individual lifeforms--but there was something... strange... about the place. Still is, really.
Acitan civilization was the first to rise. The silvanshee took on the role of protector. Most of the time this meant watching over it from a distance, a silent and invisible protector, but sometimes it meant taking a more visible role. Silvanshee guided the fledgling civilization, carefully influencing it slightly to keep it from destroying itself or committing particularly egregrious systematic atrocities, but at the same time making sure they didn’t contaminate it too much. Over time, the silvanshee influenced the acitan less and less, to the point where they did little but defend them from existential threats.
And then, several hundred years ago, the acitan began experiencing an extremely rapid rate of biotechnological progress. While they had always been messing with DNA, previously they had simply been selectively breeding plants and animals (the latter process dying out after it became clear that the animals in question didn’t particularly enjoy being selectively bred). After they discovered actual genetic coding, they began experimenting with it. The first experiments were clumsy, small affairs--bacteria. Under normal circumstances, they simply would have been destroyed.
It stopped being normal circumstances when [some group] attacked, having learned of the acitan’s potential by divination. They teleported in, and released the bacteria. And the magical energies being thrown around altered the bacteria further, making them much more virulent then they ever would have been otherwise. Those bacteria escaped into the ecosystem. And plague swept through the Southern Basin. Hundreds of species went extinct, and the most unique life in the Southern Basin did as well.
But the acitan kept improving their biotechnology. Initially much of it was in the field of weapons, and that was how Kwanko was created. Ultimately, it became clear that the acitan’s enemies considered them gone, and the silvanshee could block divination attempts. The acitan were content to remain in the Southern Basin until recently, when it became clear that they needed to explore the rest of the world, both simply to know what was out there and to gather species for various rewilding projects.
Basics of Acitan Government:
Acitan government works by what is officially (and usually unofficially) a meritocracy. Each settlement, which is at maximum a few thousand, votes on candidates for different offices, called Prae. Almost every single community has a Prae of Community Organization, Prae of Non-Discrimination Protections, a Prae of Biological Research, a Prae of Invention, a Prae of Education, a Prae of Inter-Settlement Relations, and a Prae of Ecology. Larger communities will have other Praes, with some of the more memorable being Prae of Volcanic Eruption Prevention, Prae of Bioluminescent Bacterial Arts, and Prae of Managing the Deadly Thermite Mines. Half the time it is impossible to tell with an acitan if they are making fun of themselves and their naming conventions or not.
Candidates for office are chosen very, very carefully. The acitan have developed a set of tools and tests to assist with determining who is most adept at the job they will be performing, usually by comparing their past achievements and giving them a set of problems to work out. A Prae of Ecology might have to figure out a way to stabalize a local population, and a Prae of Inter-Settlement Relations might have to settle a mock dispute with another settlement. Because acitan culture sees being dishonest in this area as roughly equivalent to experimenting on a sentient species without permission, cheating or throwing the results is uncommon, especially
if it’s obvious (but still unproveable). If ‘everybody knows’ that acitan x
sabotaged acitan y
test, acitan x
is going to find himself endlessly socially humiliated at every opportunity. It is equivalent to breaking the most serious taboos in some cultures.
The candidates will then be voted on using a preferential voting system, with each box being filled out with a number. Voting (suffrage granted as soon as one reaches sexual maturity, which is about the time acitan decision-making skills and intelligence spikes) is compulsory with a mild fine for violations and significantly increased taxes for those who don’t vote. The ballot is secret, and the ballot counting is performed in public, and doesn’t take very long because the settlements are usually small. After counting, the new Praes have a week (sometimes more) to settle into their new role as the old Praes show them the basic ropes. In an attempt to combat sabotoge by old Praes, a Prae can’t run for two consecutive terms, though factionalism isn’t unknown, especially in larger settlements.
One fact is drilled into the head of every single acitan, especially once they announce that they are a candidate. You are a servant. Nothing more. That does not mean you will do as the people tell you to, it means that you will do what is best for the people you serve.
A similar mantra is applied to voters: Just because an elected official doesn’t do what you wanted them to do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote for them, if their reasoning makes sense. The whole of acitan government rests on the idea of thinking completely logically (mind-altering drugs are legalized for Praes to aid in this). It also rests on a certain amount of idealism, the idea of individuals working together to create a better future--even though acitan psychology seems like it would naturally discourage this, acitan culture and psychology has generally made them highly idealistic.
The system isn’t foolproof, though. Some acitan are naturally resistant to mind-altering drugs, and in any society you’ll get individuals who don’t follow the rules. Due to the (usually) small size of acitan settlements, the government is either very clean, or very corrupt, with only a few examples of a level of corruptness in between the two. Of course, ‘clean’ doesn’t mean ‘unbiased or flawless’ and just because a Prae won’t consciously practice cronyism or accept bribes doesn’t mean xe won’t be more inclined to listen to certain proposals based on who they’re coming from, or treat those who treat xer well more generously. The drugs help, but even when the acitan in question is more
susceptible than usual to them, the drugs can’t eliminate bias. In an attempt to combat this, acitan governments usually have a form of affirmative action where proposals from outside the establishment are required to be analyzed more carefully than proposals from inside the establishment (and when Praes complain that they’ve gone over and analyzed it, the answer is always the same: Do it again) and any proposal granting rights to a group outside the establishment requires that any Prae voting ‘no’ must be able to show there is a clear and present danger from voting ‘yes’. While those rule isn’t always followed (acitan governments usually ignore proposals to ban biotechnology and similar measures, under the argument that identical proposals have been submitted and rejected), it usually is. Many settlements also have anonymously submitted proposals in an attempt to apply the principles of double-blind scientific studies to government, and in these the extra time is given out on the basis of how far from the establishment the proposal is.
There is no real centralized authority for the settlements; for the most part they’re free to do whatever they want, which in the past has resulted in more than a few settlements becoming very bad places to live. Traditionally the method of dealing with this has been total academic boycott--no knowledge gets in and no knowledge gets out, which for an acitan settlement is really quite a severe punishment. But lately there’s been a growing movement among younger acitan (about the age of my character) to form a unitary state, and they’ve recently gained some victories in forcing settlements to sign agreements that would be enforced by groups not affiliated with a specific settlement.
Acitan culture rests on five pillars: biotechnology, tribalistic structure, mutualism, coalition social structures, and chaos.
Biotechnology unites the entire acitan population. It crosses ideological and political boundaries. The acitan, whatever their quarrels with each other, are united in the pursuit of advancing their knowledge of the sciences and their biotechnological sophistication. Acitan prize raw intellect--they don’t particularly prize Western-style formal logic, preferring the more spontaneous energy of pure raw intellect. They do operate on logic of a sort, but it isn’t formalized.
Acitan culture encourages exploration and discovery, scorning formalized systems of learning for a DiY approach, both to knowledge and to biotechnology. The scientific community is not isolated or relegated to obscure journals, it is part and parcel of the community. As a result of this, acitan science hasn’t gone into the dozens of separate fields that characterize science today--their science retains a holistic approach, even though individual acitan might have specialties. This approach contributes to the fact that very few acitan are scientifically illiterate.
Nor does acitan culture emphasize obedience or, paradoxically enough, cultural unity. The acitan don’t glorify cultural rebellion, they simply don’t care if an acitan wants to go off and spend all their time meditating and never touch biotechnology, or if they want to dabble in mechanical engineering. So long as they don’t try to impose their rebellion on the rest of society, it’s quite irrelevant. The acitan aren’t exemplers of unsullied virtue in this regard, though, because when someone tries to make a major change in acitan society, acitan culture suddenly does
care... and while acitan culture hasn’t lent itself to oppression based on gender or sexual orientation, their record isn’t so good with purely political movements, and the unitarians face a great deal of opposition and frequently find it difficult to find a forum to air their arguments and beliefs. It’s not government-mandated, but informal--and the unitarians are winning at least that part of their fight, if slowly.
Acitan believe in mutualism--and more than that, they believe that mutualism is the right thing to do even if the other party doesn’t reciprocate. Partly this is due to cultural baggage; the only way the acitan managed to survive for so long was to be selfless. On a certain level, being selfless was out of self-interest in the past. Without heroes willing to give up everything for the Southern Basin, it would be but dust.
But it’s more than cultural baggage. It’s even more than a product of acitan society. The acitan genuinely have (to a certain extent) an alturistic instinct. It’s because of interbreeding with the silvanshee. They are
celestials and agathions, no matter how far separated they might be from their plane, and the agathion moral tendencies are to a very small extent ingrained in the acitan’s genetic coding, because there’s a tiny bit of a connection to the home plane of the silvanshee inside of them, mandated by their DNA. It is incredibly slight, and acitan are not influenced towards a specific alignment because of it. Of course, interbreeding hasn’t had entirely positive results, it also gave the acitan the Distance...
Acitan are most comfortable (off the FungusNet) in groups of three to twelve individuals, usually called coalitions after the cheetah social structure. Most settlements have just a few coalitions--though frequently coalitions have overlap between members. Dual, triple, or greater coalition membership isn’t considered ‘disloyal’, some acitan are simply more social than others, and the FungusNet’s advent has only increased the division.
A coalition is a group of friends, colleagues, and allies. The members socialize together, work on shared projects, and back each other up when necessary. A coalition member can always be counted on to help another; the links between coalition members are far stronger than the ones between family members. And frequently, they sleep together, in multiple senses of the word.
Sexually, acitan are promiscuous, a result of their cheetah heritage. Usually, they’re most sexually promiscuous inside their coalitions, at least for recreational purposes. They view sexual activity as a means of recreation and as a way of reaffirming social bonds. Since their mastery of biotechnology, they haven’t had significant problems with unwanted pregnancies or STDs, so those ideas usually don’t factor into their decisions. And many acitan never have kits (those that do have fairly large litters, so the population remains stable). Of course, under normal circumstances acitan are only fertile at certain times of year (not
the same thing as only being sexually active at certain times of year), but for anybody who doesn’t want to spend a few months each year wandering off into the wilderness, being exceptionally territorial, and yowling loud enough to wake hibernating monsters, there are hormone modifiers that eliminate the heat/rut cycles. Obviously, these are going to be in high demand as the acitan send out their first wave of explorers into distant lands; mating bouts are a whole lot more unappealing when it would mean being helpless in a potentially hostile area.
All this doesn’t mean that acitan don’t form lasting relationships. They do, and they are intensely loyal to their coalitions. An acitan would be willing to personally remove their own organs to save a coalition member, to put themselves through unimaginable agony. The very concept of betraying a coalitionmate is so repulsive to the acitan that an accusation of that sort is met with instantaneous violence.
Acitan embrace chaos. Not the primal chaos of the sladdi, where all is constantly in flux, or the sort of chaos embodied by demons (indeed, they view demons with a completely unrestrained hatred), but the chaos of the azatas. Acitan culture advocates the type of peaceful chaos where individuals are more or less left to their own devices so long as they do not endanger others. This attitude is also responsible for the manner in which acitan treat their government, and the general characteristics of their system of government.
More than just that, though. Their knowledge of biotechnology lets them change their own body. And the right to control one’s own body is one of the most precious rights of the acitan. While the most radical modifications are still out of the reach of the acitan, most minor modifications (some feathers, slight change of eye or fur color, that sort of stuff) are simple--the process of changing takes a few weeks, if that. More extensive modifications, such as completely changing fur color and patterning, or going from digitigrade to plantigrade, takes months, if not years.
Few acitan would dare restrict another from changing their own body. And few acitan would tolerate even the implication
that changing one’s own body was wrong, even from those who, in the view of the acitan, could not know better (the acitan do have an arrogant streak).
Officially, the acitan have no military—and they certainly have no standing army or anything of the sort. The very concept of maintaining an army seems counterproductive to the acitan.
Nonetheless, attacking the acitan would be costly, and would require the full commitment of the troops to ensure victory. Acitan settlements are widely spread out and each one is only home to a fairly small fraction of the acitan population—at any point a good 1% of the population is outside of a settlement. While a settlement might not be hard to destroy, especially if it was taken by surprise, every single acitan in the entire Southern Basin would know about it within minutes by the FungusNet. Attempting to destroy the FungusNet wouldn’t work either, since an entire area simply being gone would be as surefire indicator of trouble. And the FungusNet is resistant to magic anyway, and it is ridiculously hard to interfere with signals once they’re traveling along the FungusNet.
The acitan would then use the FungusNet (as well as other means of communication) to determine where the invading army is, then use the magical resources of their silvanshee and ash cat allies as well as their own extremely advanced biotechnology to launch long-range attacks (using, mostly, electrolasers attached to very fast flying transports). Almost every single sentient being that has reached sexual maturity would immediately make it a priority to make the invading army’s life as miserable as possible, preferably by ending it.
The problem is that while the acitan have the biotechnology to annihilate entire armies, that sort of biotechnology isn’t widely maintained or practiced with. By the time an organized effort to start producing that biotechnology, the acitan would be at a serious disadvantage even with their biotechnological advantage, and would still refuse to mass-produce biotechnology until most of their population had been killed. The Counterstrike Project makes it a point to maintain powerful, compact, lightweight electrolasers ideal for use as antipersonnel weapons, as well as biotechnologies that strengthen skin; if they actually had enough to outfit most of the acitan populace (they don’t, they’ve got enough for a few percent) then conquering the Southern Basin would be of questionable possibility even if the acitan were outnumbered ten to one.
No one is seriously threatened by the acitan’s military capabilities. But they are, for the most part, peaceful, and it would be extremely difficult to actually consolidate control over the area—and in return any invading army would get an area that’s most potent resources are a bunch of lemonade trees.
NOTE: Microscopic organisms have been left out, as has anything that’s smaller than a grain of rice. Those organisms are the ones responsible for the Southern Basin’s continued existence as a functioning ecosystem, and I do not plan on having to find every single type of algae, plankton, nematode, and
consumer-of-detritus necessary for a functioning ecosystem.
- kokerboom (Aloe dichotoma)- variety in the area, when burned, gives off a scent similar to myrrh; useful as lumber and firewood; edible flower buds; trunks of dead trees can be used as natural refrigerator; frequently used in bonsai
- ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)- mostly in mountains; often used in bonsai
- Rocky mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)- mountains only
- redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)- mountains only; often used in bonsai
- boabob (Adanscuia digitata)- fruit is used to create a delicious drink similar to lemonade; pollinated by fruit bats; often used in bonsai
- pod mahogony (Afzelia quanzensis)
- sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata)
- tree wisteria (Bolusanthus specious)- often used in bonsai
- mango (Mangifera aridum)- commonly cultivated in acitan settlements for food and to attract fruit bats; especially common near mountains, streams, and springs
- Natal bottlebrush (Greyia sutherlandii)- mountains only
- king protea (Protea cynaroides)
- red pincushion protea (Leucospermum cordifolium)
- kafferkie (Encephalartos caffer)
- Flowering Plants:
- balloon milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)
- satin flower (Geissorhiza radians)
- Natal sour fig (Carpobrotus dimidiatus)- most common in scrublands
- elephant’s foot (Dioscorea elephantipes)
- wild cucumber (Cucumis africanus)- most common in scrublands
- tsamma melon (Citrullus lanatus)- cultivated form is a delicacy
- leurporsel (Drosanthemum bicolor)
- garden gazania (Gazania gazania)
- Cape forget-me-not (Anchusa capensis)
- aloe vera (Aloe vera)
- spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla)
- red hot poker (Aloe aborescenes)
- Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- devil’s claw (Harpogophytum procumbens)- used for medicinal purposes; acitan have bred a variety that’s extremely useful as a painkiller and completely safe
- ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Venus fly-trap (Dionaea aridus)- adapted to drier conditions
- lava cactus (Brachycereus nesioticus)- only present on fringes of lava lakes
- elephant grass (Pennistrum purpureum)
- Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon)
- papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)- cultivated for paper