The Valson are generally tall, but not as tall as the Dardani, and have a medium build. They are fair-skinned. Their hair is most often red—from strawberry blonde to auburn. Their eye color is generally grey or green, although hazel does appear. The Valson have the same Talents as the Fasallon, except for one—Fore Sight is almost unknown amongst them. However, they have one Talent that is extremely rare among the Fasallon, the ability to manipulate and move objects with their minds. The Valson call their Talent ‘Powers’. Valson men wear a tunic and trousers not too different from the Dardani, although the Dardani tunic tends to be pulled on over the head and the Valson tunic has laces which allow it to be opened to the waist. Following his marriage to Thekila, Vatar generally wears the more practical Valson-style tunic (which also gives Thekila more access to his tattoos). The women usually wear a simple shift-type dress, almost like an extra-long tunic, but can wear tunic and trousers like the men if they want or if travelling. The Valson favor vivid colors. They do not wear jewelry, other than their avatar amulets, but they often work fine embroidery around the hems and necks of their shifts. Valson women wear their long hair up, often in complicated wraps. Quetza is quite eccentric for cutting hers short. Women and men are generally treated as equals among the Valson. Position and respect are due to ability and effort, not gender.
The Valson are actually the distant cousins of the Fasallon. The kinship can be seen in small ways. Both groups play a chess-like game not known to any of the other cultures. They are the only two groups to possess writing. Both have a higher level of technology than the surrounding peoples (except that the Caereans have learned much of this technology from the Fasallon). And both groups have similar religious beliefs and hold a day of rest one day in seven.
At one point in the distant past, both groups lived in the far north, on the other side of the Northern Wilderness. There was a plague which divided their people. Those who never contracted the plague remained normal, probably not much different than the current Caereans in some respects. Those that caught the plague and survived were changed. They began to have magical abilities, which were passed on to their children. Individuals had different abilities, but cross breeding among the survivors spread many of the abilities widely in the group. The fear and distrust of the normal population drove these survivors to migrate south in search of a new home.
At some point, shortly after they had crossed the Northern Wilderness, there was a dispute among the survivors. A smaller group broke off from the main group and turned south west, eventually reaching the coast at Caere and becoming the Fasallon. The larger group held to a more southerly direction and passed to the east of the Forest, eventually finding their way to the Valley.
The Valson live in a high mountain valley that they call, simply, the Valley. The Valley has an unusually mild climate, considering its position. This is at least partly due to the volcanic activity in the southern part of the mountain range on the western side of the Valley. But Valson Powers may also influence the climate. The Valson have lived in isolation for several hundred years. They haven’t had a need for place names to describe their home. There is one city, called the City, in the Valley. The main school for Valson children is called simply the Academy. It is across the Lake from the City.
Valson children begin studying at the Academy at about ten years old. They graduate approximately eight years later, when they pass their examinations. At this time, they are given an amulet in the shape of their avatar—the animal that they most commonly use for shape changes. Also at this time, they are permitted to leave the Valley for a season. They usually go out into the Great Forest for a few months to enjoy some freedom before settling down to take up their place in Valson society.
It is not uncommon for young Valson to take a lover at this time. This relationship may or may not develop into a lasting life-partnership. No shame attaches to the break up of such a relationship when the partners are young. The Valson use their Powers to enhance their awareness of their own bodies and to control even the internal workings of their bodies to prevent pregnancies. Lovers join their minds during sex both to deepen the intimacy of the experience and to help each other make the necessary adjustments for contraception. When Valson do decide to be life-partners, they expect the relationship to last a life-time. While divorce is possible, it is considered a failure on the part of the partners and they are unlikely to find other mates. Extremely committed partners may become bound. This can happen slowly, over time, or it can be chosen by the partners. A bound couple has no barriers left between them—each can feel the other’s emotions. They can also share their Powers and other strengths with each other. It is extremely rare for one partner of a bound couple to survive the death of the other for even a short time. Once bound, the pair is mated for life, because the bond cannot be broken.
After their time at the Academy, it is usual for the better students to stay at the Academy for a few years as teachers. They also continue their studies independently during this time. The usual period is two to five years. A few, like Teran and Terania, choose to remain as teachers and administrators. Most move on to other occupations after a few years.
The Valson commonly live long lives. They generally have only two or three children, so that the population remains fairly stable. It is common for a Valson woman to have fraternal twins—often a boy and a girl. Identical twins are less common. When they have twins, they tend to name them complimentary names—Teran and Terania, Loran and Lorania, etc. Sometimes, they use a similar naming convention for children born years apart—Thekila and Theklan, Zoria and Zoran, for example.
The Valson enjoy intellectual pursuits—music, reading, and a chess-like game they call sheggi. Young children, especially boys, engage in athletic activities. But adults usually confine their physical activity to pleasant hikes around the edges of the Valley or boating on the Lake.
The Valson have a love of green and growing things. The streets of the City are lined with trees. The houses have gardens instead of courtyards. And where there are market squares in Caere, there are parks in the City. The Valson are not strict vegetarians, but their diet is heavily based on fruits and vegetables. They don’t use a lot of grains, though.
Houses in the city are often three or four stories tall. They may be square, rectangular, or even round. Houses outside the city are usually square and only as large as needed. The houses for the teachers at the Academy are usually only two rooms—a front room for daily activities and entertaining and a bedroom. There’s no need for a kitchen, since the teachers eat in the dining hall with the students. Larger houses are available for married teachers with young children.
All around the Valley, the Valson have scattered small groves of fruit trees which bloom spectacularly in the spring. There are particularly a lot of fruit trees around the campus of the Academy. The Valson value an orderly existence. Everything about the Valley is kept clean and neat. There is an almost Zen quality about the Valson way of life.
The Valson live by five Tenets which they feel define them as Valson—to respect all life, to take responsibility for their actions, never to use their Powers to do harm, and to respect the privacy of others. The last Tenet is particularly telling—you can only be Valson if you live by the Tenets. This shows that the Valson or their ancestors understood that their idyllic way of life and the Tenets themselves would only work if everyone agreed to abide by the same rules. When someone fails to abide by the Tenets, they are exiled to the south, where the climate is harsher.
When the need arises, the Valson are ruled by a Council of wise elders. But the Valson live such orderly lives that the Council is not accustomed to having to make difficult decisions.
The Valson have a general belief in a single creator god, whom they call the Maker. The Valson honor the Maker by respecting the things, particularly living things, She has created. The Valson observe a day of rest on seventh-day. When pressed, a Valson will swear, “By the Maker!” or “Merciful Maker!”.