Physical Appearance and Structure
Edestekai are an intelligent race genetically engineered from Volturnian arthropods. They are trilaterally symmetrical, that is, if their bodies were divided lengthwise into three equal parts, the parts would be mirror images of each other.
The body of an Edestekai is shaped like a giant peanut with three bulbous lobes on top. Three eyes are arranged in a circle around the narrowest part of the body, at the midpoint or "waist". The eyes are arranged in such a way that the they have a 360-degree field of vision.
They have three lower limbs arranged like a tripod. The first and largest joint on each of these limbs is covered with a hard extension of the shell and serves as a foot. The limb continues to the second and third joint which are roughly analogous to a human elbow and wrist. Below the third joint are three tentacles which are used for grasping and manipulating objects.
Underneath their bodies, Edestekai have a number of special thick cilia or hair-like filaments. These cilia are used as a base to support the body when the limbs are extended completely straight. Except for their tentacles, cilia, and eyes, their bodies and limbs are encased in an exoskeleton made of chitin, a hard shell-like material. The mouth of an Edestekai is located near the base of the body and is hidden by the cilia.
There are two physiological factors which have greatly influenced Edestekai culture: the fact that they are trilaterally symmetrical and the fact that they have three sexes. The three sexes of the Edestekai are the "Egg Layers" who produce eggs, the "Fertilizers" who fertilize the eggs, and the "Nurturers" who then carry the eggs internally and actually give birth to live young.
Edestekai senses of sight, taste and touch are about the same as those of humans. Their sense of hearing relies on the their cilia to detect and interpret sound. Edestekai have olfactory receptors located near their mouths, although their sense of smell seems to be less than that of a Human.
Edestekai communicate by means of a language composed of shrieks, whistles, groans, and other sounds combined with clicks of the limbs and signs with the grasping tentacles.
Society and Customs
The primary values of the Edestekai are: order, fertility, abundance of lands and crops, and peace. They abhor killing and violence. Any act of violence (except in self-defense) is strictly punished and requires a lengthy ritual of purification. Edestekai will defend themselves if attacked, and have been known to fight with an almost insane fury when their religious principles are at stake.
Edestekai prefer to remain isolated from the other intelligent species on Volturnus, and would bar outsiders from entering their villages if this did not conflict with their values of non-violence and peace. Because of these values, they will tolerate outsiders provided the outsiders do not violate Edestekai law or interfere with their religious rituals. If an outsider becomes accepted into their society, that individual's role in the rituals of the race is decided by the High Priest.
Edestekai are vegetarians, believing that meat should be eaten only by the gods. This makes them intensely dislike the Kurabanda, who hunt for meat, seeing the them as ignorant savages. They hate the Ul-Mor because the Ul-Mor manhood ritual involves trying to kill a quickdeath.
The Edestekai farm the hills of Volturnus, cultivating fields of a tuber called morda and several varieties of a grain known as arbon.
In addition, the Edestekai keep large numbers of blotes, docile amphibians about the size of a dog and similar in appearance to a salamander. Blotes are hosts for a parasitical fungus called krume. Krume looks something like shelf fungus and grows profusely on the skin of blotes. The Edestekai cultivate krume on their blotes and harvest it about every six weeks.
Edestekai also use irrigation to create stagnant ponds where they grow green algae called squill.
Edestekai live in dug-out stone houses. Viewed from ground level these houses appear to be only a few feet high, but inside they are quite spacious. The houses often continue into the hillside for quite some distance. The trisex family is the basic unit of Edestekai society. Nurturers are expected to remain in the household and perform child-rearing and maintenance duties. Egg Layers are expected to cultivate crops and assume general responsibility for maintaining the food supply. Fertilizers are free to become skilled workers, artisans, idol-makers or even priests.
Although technologically primitive, the Edestekai have an advanced, theocratic social structure. Religion is the dominant factor in their lives, with over 60,000 gods or other beings they believe influence the material world. The gods represent the forces of nature: sun, moons, stars, winds, creatures, oceans, etc. There are three gods which are most important among these.
Edestekai mythology teaches that Egarit ("Light") and Elenehet ("Darkness") created the world. Nothing could live or grow in this world; the sun and stars would not stay in place; the oceans would not keep to their boundaries, etc. But the goddess, Edesti ("Order") intervened and the world in its present form came about to crown the creation. Edesti nurtured the "Chosen Ones" (the Edestekai). These she made trilaterally to reflect nature of ultimate divine authority. The lesser gods were then given control of various areas of functioning in the universe
Edestekai believe that they have a special mission to magically assist the gods in the constant struggle against chaos. The gods receive their power from magical rituals which the they perform. Most of these rituals take place on specially consecrated grounds, and involve group singing, chanting and very intricate patterns of dancing.
Religious rules, rituals, and beliefs control almost all facets of daily life. There are rituals for almost all aspects of Edestekai life: a ritual of rain, a ritual of planting, a ritual of harvesting, a ritual to prevent or cure disease, a ritual for protection from enemies, etc.
Nothing is allowed to interfere with the performance of these rituals at the proper time, because the Edestekai believe that if the rituals are not performed at the proper time, there is a chance the gods will lose too much power, causing the world to end as stars fall from the skies, oceans flood the world, and all life ends. Non-Edestekai are not allowed to participate in these rituals. The sacred grounds where rituals are performed may not be touched or walked upon by any outsiders.
Warfare and Social Organization
While they are not warlike, the Edestekai do have cadres of trained warriors who fight with long spears. Edestekai warriors usually fight in formations of massed spearmen.
There is no distinction between the government and the religious authorities - in Edestekai society, the priests are the government. The bulk of their social structure is focused on the village level. A typical village contains about a thousand individuals. Organization above the village level is in the hands of the elected High Priest and his immediate followers. They live in the holy city, near the Crystal Stonehenge. It is believed that their "god of justice" takes the form of a quickdeath, who also lives in the City.
All religious teaching and ritual is under the control of priests, who are equal in authority and power. The supreme ruler of the Edestekai is a High Priest who lives in the supreme temple near the Crystal Stonehenge. This High Priest is elected for life by vote of all the other priests.
Each year a certain number of individuals from each village are sent to the holy city to labor for the High Priest. The pilgrimage and work time are considered holy. Any individual who has worked in the holy city is held in special reverence.
Sometimes priests see visions or hear unknown voices. The Edestekai believe these revelations have been sent to reveal the will of the gods. Such revelations are called True Visions. There is no appeal from any judgment made by a priest who has had a True Vision concerning the case in question. However, the people as a whole must agree that the priest / judge's hallucination is, in fact, a True Vision, and not merely a fantasy of the priest's own creation. Priests who have seen an authentic True Vision are regarded as living saints.
Edestekai villages and houses are filled with idols of the various gods. Each idol must be given proper reverence. It is a crime punishable by death to steal an idol belonging to any Edestekai.
The Edestekai legal system is based upon belief in oracles, communications from the gods. Accused persons are put on trial before judges who are also priests. Evidence and testimony are taken, but the final decision is left to the priest, based on what the priest believes to be the will of the gods. If the accused does appeal, the priest picks a sheaf of arbon grain at random and counts the number of kernels on it. If the number is odd, this is believed to be a special sign from the gods that the accused is innocent. If the number is even, the accused is not only guilty of the original crime, but has offended the gods by appealing to them to cover up his or her guilt.
The Edestekai believe that their god of justice takes the physical form of a quickdeath. For Edestekai, these animals are messengers of the god of justice and are holy animals. Priests always wear a shawl of quickdeath hide when hearing a case. A live quickdeath is always kept (in captivity) in the main Edestekai temple near the Crystal Stonehenge.
Punishments for crimes require the offender to pay back to the person he or she harms something of equal value to the harm done. In extreme cases, the punishment may be legalized slavery. Death is administered by staking the criminal out with three stakes to be eaten alive by a quickdeath.
Edestekai will react with great anger and hostility to any show of force, violence, or sacrilege by non-Edestekai. Other races will find it difficult to make suggestions to them, as they see all other races as obviously inferior creatures who must be tolerated. They will react favorably to evidence of sustained, peaceful hard work, artistic craftsmanship, great wealth, or extreme religious piety.
Due to their wide field of vision, Edestekai are not blindsided by rear attacks.
They are encased in an exoskeleton made of chitin, a hard shell-like material that provides a degree of protection from physical (inertia) attacks. The degree of protection is unstated, but it's safe to assume that it is equal to a skeinsuit.
(Cited form SFAD1 "Volturnus, Planet of Mystery" and SFAD2 "Starspawn of Volturnus"; art and into by Ragnarr)