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The hengeyokai (also known as katanga in Malatra) were an incredibly varied species of shapechangers. They believed themselves descended from humans and shapeshifting animal spirits or fey versions of primal animals, though some scholars of Faerie instead believed them to be either awakened animals infused with the magic of that plane or creations of the fomorians.
In general, most hengeyokai were more agile than the average human. They were also quite long-lived—frequently living past the age of two hundred—though some seemed to mature slowly, not reaching adolescence until the end of their first century.
Despite their variety of appearances, each subrace had one feature in common—they had three forms: their animal form, a human form, and a bipedal form that shared features of both.
The animal form of a hengeyokai subrace was thought to never be as big as an adult human, though rumors persisted, especially in the south, that there were some subraces that had animal forms that could be larger than most men.
A hengeyokai's bipedal form gained some of the abilities and/or attributes of its animal form, such as a thicker hide or the ability to fly.
Unlike lycanthropes, which they superficially resembled in many ways, hengeyokai had no relationship with the moon, never changed forms unless they wanted to, were not especially vulnerable to silver, did not transmit their power through inflicted wounds, did not heal when they changed shape, and did not have to have a predatory animal form, though they did frequently take on a superficial likeness to their animal when in human form.
Most hengeyokai avoided contact with other sentient races with the exception of the spirit folk. They were a secretive race who preferred to live alone or in very small communities. Most would actively retreat from encounters with humans, realizing that they had more in common with spirits than they did with humanity, despite having the ability to appear just like a human.
Good hengeyokai sometimes took it upon themselves to watch over and protect a human settlement, living on the fringes of the human community until it was in danger, whereupon they quietly moved to deal with the threat, oftentimes completely unbeknownst to the settlement's residents. Evil hengeyokai instead played cruel pranks on humans, extorting offerings from those they preyed upon in order to leave them alone.
All hengeyokai were, to some extent, unpredictable and valued both their freedom and the freedom of others greatly. The greatest insult one could give to a hengeyokai was trapping them in a cage. Seeing a slave or a trapped animal was abhorrent to them.
Hengeyokai also frequently shared personality traits with their animal.
Being reclusive sorts, hengeyokai didn't have much of a cultural history. Native to Faerie, they first entered Toril in the wake of a massive war between the eladrin and the fomorians where evil hengeyokai served the fomorians as spies and assassins. After the eladrin emerged victorious, they went on an almost genocidal purge of all hengeyokai, causing the species to flee Faerie en masse. They then lived in peace on Toril for many millennia.
Many rat hengeyokai left the Tenmei province of Kozakura after a costly war with local korobokuru and during the Spellplague civil war in Kozakura, most of the hengeyokai population remained staunchly neutral, though some acted in defense of innocents caught between the warring factions.
A section of Faerie moved closer to the Sheng Ti province of Shou Lung shortly after the Spellplague, which empowered the spirit folk and hengeyokai of the region, but despite this the two races remained completely loyal to the Emperor and, in gratitude, they were allowed to enter the civil service in 1396 DR, which had previously only been open to humans. Few actually took the opportunity but it remained nonetheless, despite groups who actively opposed the move.
Hengeyokai typically lived on the fringes of human civilization. They had particularly large populations concentrated in the Ama Basin of Kara-Tur, though they could be found pretty much anywhere in Kara-Tur where there was any wilderness area.
Almost every Shou town in Faerûn had some hengeyokai living in or near it (though in places like Nathlan, hengeyokai were careful to remain in their human form). A rare few struck out away from familiar surroundings to live in Cormyr, the Dalelands, the Western Heartlands and the North.
There was substantial variety in the hengeyokai race owing to the variety of animal species in the world.
- Raccoon Dog
- Spider katanga looked out only for other spider katanga, and viewed most other species merely as food. Thankfully, their numbers seemed restricted entirely to the Malatran Plateau, though occasionally, a Mother of a Thousand Young emerged from the populace and birthed a mass of new spider katanga to threaten the other races living on it.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Tim Eagon (October 2011). “Ecology of the Hengeyokai”. Dragon #404 (Wizards of the Coast).
- ↑ Gary Gygax, David Cook, and Francois Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 12. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.
- ↑ James Wyatt (October 2001). Oriental Adventures (3rd edition). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 10. ISBN 0-7869-2015-7.