Raptorans are unique among the common races for their ability to fly. In ancient times, the raptorans made a pact with the lords of the Elemental Plane of Air, gaining the ability to fly in exchange for pledging the finest warriors of their race to the service of the air elementals in various extraplanar battles. Although the elementals have not called upon the raptorans for assistance in generations, the pact entered into by those distant ancestors continues to shape raptoran society today. To ensure that only the fittest and most capable raptorans are available to fill the ranks of these would-be warriors, the agreement with the elementals called for the raptorans to put their offspring through a test of survival and self-reliance called the Walk of the Four Winds. To this day, every member of a raptoran flock must undergo this trial before becoming able to fly. When the flock chief judges a young adult raptoran to be ready for the walk, that raptoran can leave immediately to start the test. Those who do not leave at their earliest opportunity are referred to by other members of the community as “gliders” (reflecting their limited capacity to use their wings). The pact led to the creation of the skypledged, who draw their ranks from raptoran druids and clerics. By vowing to forgo earth, fire, and water spells, skypledged gain great flexibility in spellcasting as well as ever-increasing power over the wind. Skypledged are not structured in a single great organization but scattered among the tribes, each honoring the pact as he or she sees best. The pact also set out details regarding the creation of the stormtalons, the organization of elite raptoran soldiers who assist raptoran flocks that find themselves in danger.
Feathered wings are a raptoran’s singular identifying feature. When fully outstretched, they span 10 to 12 feet, although raptorans (when not flying) are more comfortable with them folded behind their backs. An interlocking series of ligaments allows raptorans to lock their wings in the outstretched position, enabling them to glide for long periods without tiring. The wing feathers are ordinarily white, with black-tipped feathers appearing more often as a raptoran ages. Raptorans tend to be thinner and slightly taller than humans, with most of their extra height in their legs; their arms are likewise somewhat longer. They average just over 6 feet tall and weigh around 150 pounds. Their legs end in bony talons that aren’t particularly sharp but have tremendous gripping strength. Raptoran hands are much like human hands, but each finger ends in a thick, almost clawlike fingernail. The race does not have facial hair, but downy feathers on a raptoran’s scalp can resemble hair when viewed at a distance. Some female raptorans have a row of more substantial feathers running from earlobe to earlobe across the back of the head and neck. Females can fan out this neck ruff to display it; male raptorans consider a well groomed neck ruff to be attractive. Raptoran clothing tends to be utilitarian and streamlined. Garb that’s heavy, restrictive, or too loose would impede flight, so most raptorans rely on a close-fitting shirt and a simple set of breeches. Because a raptoran’s feathered wings provide better insulation than a down quilt, lightly dressed raptorans are comfortable even in cold climes. Raptoran clothing includes straps and buckles for keeping pockets closed, because raptorans in flight would otherwise drop coins and other possessions. Dangling jewelry is disdained as an annoyance in flight. Raptorans sometimes dye individual wing feathers in arresting combinations — a decorative art not unlike the cosmetics that some humans wear.
Raptorans have a reputation for being deep thinkers who always weigh their options carefully. They’re notorious for treating strangers coolly, yet they’re also slow to judge and usually give newcomers ample time to prove themselves worthy of friendship. They are slow to anger but even slower to forgive an insult or injury. When faced with uncertainty, raptorans usually retreat to a safe distance and settle down to observe and ponder the situation for a while. Their detractors dismiss this behavior as cowardly or indecisive, yet raptorans are perfectly capable of improvising when the need arises, and they generally stick to a task once they have decided how to take it on. Raptorans seldom flee from danger; they just back off a little. Raptorans love to argue and debate, whether or not they actually agree with the philosophy they are defending so passionately. They do not, however, waste time arguing when danger threatens or when they perceive that time is of the essence. A raptoran’s cautious nature takes a back seat whenever physical violence is imminent. In the blink of an eye, a raptoran’s demeanor can change from serene to fierce. In combat, raptorans attack their enemies with savage aggressiveness, seeking overwhelming victory as quickly as possible. A typical raptoran community lives either in spiraling towers built in a hollow or depression halfway up a canyon cliff, or in large communal dwellings excavated into the side of a cliff. Cliffs with overhangs and southern exposures are particularly comfortable for raptorans. If a canyon has a prevailing breeze that blows through it, raptorans regard that location as a particularly auspicious place to live. While raptorans do engage in some agriculture (mostly fruit orchards), they subsist on hunting whatever herd animals are prevalent near their cliff dwellings. Thus, they usually live far from large settlements of other races, in areas where game is plentiful and the hunting is good. Some raptoran flocks tend herds of bison, deer, or elk near their communities, taking some of the livestock each season for food.