The three lines of shapeshifters are either direct or indirect descendants of the Dasi, an ancient Egyptian cult. The Dasi worshipped the dual powers of Ahnmik and Anhamirak. Ahnmik is the god of control, power, manipulation, colness, sleep, silence, and peace. His gifts to the world included bondage and mastery. He is still worshipped by the falcons. Anhamirak is the goddess of fire, love, life, beauty, passion, chaos, and destruction. Her gifts to the world included free will. She is worshipped by the serpiente. The head of the Dasi was Maeve, and it was her task to maintain balance between the two sides. The high priestess of Anhamirak was Kiesha, opposite her was Cjarsa the high priestess of Ahnmik. The lesser priests and priestesses of the Dasi were known as the Rsh, they spoke to the people were the thirteen Dasi leaders spoke to the gods. The Rsh were the law and government of the people. Maeve and her group were their spiritual and emotional leaders.
One day a creature named Leben approached Maeve and asked her to worship him. She knew that doing so would destroy the balance but she was afraid to refuse as Leben was very powerful. So she seduced him and he gave her the second form of a white viper. Kiesha and her followers became various kinds of snakes while falcon forms were given to Cjarsa and the other worshippers of Ahnmik. Eventually Anhamirak's followers drove the falcons out and the balance was destroyed. Eventually a rift between Maeve and the other serpents developed, and she was driven out for practicing black magic. The reasons for this are discussed more closely in Wolfcry.
Kiesha rose to power of the new serpiente people and Maeve was taken in by the Rsh. Kiesha's son, Diente, became the first of the royal Cobriana line and the serpent title for king comes from his name. Maeve also had children who survive as the Obsidian Guild. The four original falcons are all still alive though their situation is slightly changed in Falcondance. They inhabit an island that shares its name with their god and which they rarely leave.
The avians are a race which values something called "avian reserve," which means to have complete control of one's emotions. They do not laugh or cry and when they do express some emotion it is usually within careful limits as dictated by their society. Their second forms consist of ravens, crows, and sparrows for ordinary avians. The second forms of their royal family are hawks. Their queen is called Tuuli Thea, her husband is simply referred to as her alistair (meaning "protector"), like all avian husbands. Avian society is very uptight and conservative, though women frequently hold positions of power avian ladies are thought of as needing protection from their alistairs. An avian girl is promised to her alistair when they are both children and they are raised together. There is no free choice in the matter of marriage. Everything is dictated either by older family members or social rules, which are very strict. In contrast to this is a passion for music, art, and storytelling which weaves its way through the confines of avian reserve.
Avians are built for long flights against the wind and their respiratory systems are extremely efficient. Their body temperature is also far above that of a human and they radiate an aura of warmth. Ordinary avians usually have either brown or black hair with eyes in various shades of brown. The royal family has golden eyes and hair. All avians are capable of assuming a Demi form where they grow their wings while still keeping a human body.
The avians have been at war with the serpiente for thousands of years and the two sides have been slaughtering each other frequently and very efficiently. Nobody remembers how or why the fighting got started.
The serpiente could not be more different from the avians. They wear their emotions openly, even in some situations where a little control might be appropriate, and are much more free-thinking than the avians. Pretty much anything is allowed in serpiente society as long as it doesn't harm anyone. As worshippers of Anhamirak, the serpiente value free choice above virtually everything else. Ordinary serpiente who follow the Cobriana line consist of emerald boas, pythons, vipers, black rats, red rats, taipans, and mambas. Though the white vipers are also serpiente, they are descendants of Maeve, the high priestess who originally stood above Kiesha, and they refuse to acknowledge a cobra as their ruler. The royal line of the serpiente are the Cobriana, cobra shapeshifters and the descendants of Kiesha. The ruler is called the Diente and their husband or wife (referred to as "mate" in serpiente society) is called Nag (male) or Naga (female). Unlike avians, serpiente frequently have relationships before getting married and when they do marry they choose their own mate. Serpiente culture highly values dancing as well as music and art. The dancer's guilds are a land of their own and though they are loyal to the Cobriana, the Diente's power over them is only minimal. Serpiente are very social and are always surrounded by other children while growing up, even when sleeping. This need for company continues throughout their adult lives.
Serpiente are cold-blooded even in human form and as such their body temperature is usually lower than a human's. Ordinary serpents have hair in various shades of either blond or black. Their eye color can consist of varying tones of emerald or sapphire. The Cobriana family are known for their black hair and garnet colored eyes, which can hypnotise with a glance. All serpents can assume a Demi form which consists of their eyes becoming more brightly colored and the pupils turning into slits. They also grow fangs and snake skin. If their second form is poisonous, their Demi form will be too, and though the poison will act a little slower it will still be deadly and much more painful.
The hatred that the serpiente have for the avians is intense, even though they also cannot remember the reasons for the war.
The falcons are introduced in the second book of the series, Snakecharm and are discussed in detail in the third book, Falcondance. Unlike the avians and the serpiente, who have forgotten much of their origins and all of their magic, the falcon culture has changed very little since the days after the Dasi split. The falcons inhabit an island, which is called Ahnmik. They have their own city, which is every bit as magical as the falcons themselves. Falcon society has a strict hierarchy with even more rules than the avians. Cjarsa is the Empress and together with her heir Araceli she holds complete control of all the falcons. Implying that the royal family is anything but just, flawless, and merciful is treason and punished with death by torture. As saying that the royal family tortures anyone would be implying that they are cruel, any torture is referred to as the Empress' or the Heir's mercy. The Mercy is also the name of the local police force, which does anything the royal family orders them to, be it helping a child in need or torturing someone to death. Falcons are deadly fighters, both physically and magically, and resistance to their rules or sentences will almost certainly result in death. But in spite of their strict social hierarchy, falcons act much more like serpiente than avians because of their similar origins. Falcons value dance and music and every single thing they build is a work of art. Though most falcons have a free choice of mate, they are confined to falcons of the same type as they are. Children between different kinds of falcons are called "mongrels" and they often lose control of their magic while growing up.
Growing up, falcons begin studying combat as soon as they are able to walk. They usually begin studying their magic before they are nine years old. Falcon hierarchy devides them up into several classes with strict bordering lines between them. The classes are usually defined by a person's ability to control their magic or by their origin. There are four types of falcons, each of them is led from one member of the royal family: Gyrfalcon (Cjarsa), Peregrine (Araceli), Aplomado (Syfka), and Merlin (Servos). Cjarsa and Araceli rule the island, Syfka is the falcon's representative to the mainland, and Servos is in charge of the shm'Ecl.
Falcons usually have fair skin and blonde hair. Their eyes can be any shade of sapphire to blue-green, as well as silver and sometimes violet. Their hair usually developes blue streaks as they get more familiar with their magic. Like avians, falcons are warm blooded, but their body temperature is much higher and the aura of heat they radiate is extreme. When combined with their magical power it can throw humans and even serpiente off balance. The falcon's Demi form is the same as an avian's and they are capable of growing their wings on their human body. However, unlike avians who rarely assume their Demi form, for falcons this is the normal way to look. Only mongrels, criminals, and falcons with unstable magic aren't allowed to wear their wings openly. The vast majority of the falcon population wear their wings as a rule.
In Falcondance it is revealed that the falcons hold the keys to the avians' origins as well as the truth of how the avian-serpiente war was started.
The Obsidian Guild
The Guild consists mainly of white vipers, Maeve's descendants, and is first described in detail in Wolfcry. They live as exiles from serpiente society, surviving in the forests through hunting and trading with the local wolf pack. Occasionally exiled serpents join them, if the serpent was exiled for crimes they either reform or are sent away to survive in the wilderness, if all they did was refuse to fight in the avian-serpiente war the Guild takes them in. The members of the Guild follow the ways of the Rsh, the lower priests and priestesses of the Dasi cult. Their leader is simply referred to as Obsidian and none of its people seem to have a set name except for vows. They value dance and freedom as well as justice.
The rift between them and serpiente society is ancient, and they are wary of the Cobriana line. In the past there have been many occasions were amnesties were offered and mass executions were delivered. Though the Guild is willing to consider rejoining the serpiente, they feel that it is best to wait until the snakes have resolved their feud with the avians before trying to reconcile another ancient struggle.
This tribe is briefly mentioned in Hawksong. They are tiger shapeshifters who originally lived in China but were forced out by humans. They are considered to be very wise and other tribes often come to them for advise in desperate situations. When Zane Cobriana chooses to finally arrange a meeting of the leaders of the Serpiente and Avians after his brother's death, the meeting was arranged to be held in Mistari lands. The Mistari's female leader, the Disa, was the one who suggested the union of the two peoples by the joining of the royal families.