The language of the Abtati is not so different from that of the Kaliti or the Kherkhanite and they can almost be made to understand each other. Their tongue has been described as being as harsh as the desert in which they dwell, especially compared to the musical tinkling of Falwood
They have a heavy emphasis on oral tradition and consequently produce a great number of magnificent storyteller.
Most Abtati encountered by outsiders are multilingual, due to their reliance on trade and frequent contact with the other Amol-Kalit civilizations, and consequently rarely heard to speak their own native tongue except to each other.
Compared to other Elves, the Abtati are short, with wiry builds and skin ranging from the color of cinnamon to mahogany. Their eyes are usually amber and their pupils smaller than other elves. Some Elbion
scholars theorize this is an adaptation to the harsh light of the sun. They often wear layers of clothing to shield them from the heat and sand. This is especially necessary if one is caught open in a sandstorm, where the fine grains of sand driven at intense speeds, can tear away exposed flesh and blind eyes not shielded by cloth.
Sand Elves are native to Amol-Kalit and tribes can be found scattered throughout the region, though most primarily dwell north and west of the Baal-Asha in the great expanse of desert between the Seret Mountains and the coast, in the midst of which lies the Forgotten City. They are not a trusting people and are skeptical of outsiders. Most likely this is on account of the common Kaliti practice of enslaving Sand Elves and using them to build their great cities
. The orc-ogre of the Seret are little better, often venturing forth from their lonely mountains to hunt Abtati for sport. It is said a Kherkhanite youth is not truly a full-blooded adult until he or she has slain at least five Abtati.
Desert dwellers, the Abtati can spring out of the dunes in sudden and vicious raids as if by magic and just as suddenly melt back into the sands. None are as knowledgeable in the ways of the desert as they and those who wish to travel the sands must often seek out an Abtati friendly enough to guide them through the barren expanse, or else risk dying by scorpion, sandstorm, hostile tribes, or merely of thirst and heat exhaustion.
Though oppressed and seen as little better than carrion feeders by the humans
of Kalit, the Kaliti are incapable of wiping them out completely, for the constantly warring city-states cannot engage in a concerted effort to do so, and those expeditions that have in the past have been swallowed whole by the waste. Many Kaliti cities have come to be reliant on the Abtati spice merchants, whose dominion over the spice trade that comes from the northern coast has become absolute. This presents an odd dichotomy, since Abtati and Kaliti will sit across from each other and conduct business, despite their mutual hatred. Which leads some scholars to wonder whether tales of Kaliti oppression are not overblown, or whether the Abtati are quite so brutal in their raids on villages
and caravans of the Kaliti.
Like their far flung kindred elves of the Spine
, the Abtati utilize magic to carve structures into the stone, leaving behind burial monuments to their dead carved into rock formations.
Tribes of Abtati can range from as few in population as a mere hundred, to a thousand or more. The Al-Hadhra, Al-Qos, and Al-Dushar tribes who founded Rhaqoum consist of many thousands, though their populations are more sedentary on account of the city.
Abtati are just as long lived as other Elves, but their harsh environment makes the reality such that those who actually leave to see more than two centuries are few and far between. They are resistant to the heat, though only slightly more so than other races of the region.
They are experts of desert warfare and excel in cutting off supply lines, hit and run tactics, lightning raids, and ambushes, relying on the slow grind of attrition and constant threat of attack and harshness of the unforgiving desert to wear down and break the psyche of their enemies. To that end, all Abtati are taught to use bow and spear.
Illusion magic is quite common, as is magic that shapes the earth, allowing them to create oases and draw up water even in the most desolate of places.
"[T]he knowledge is truly lost forever. All the College archaeologists have are their speculations, and the ten thousand conflicting histories of Amol-Kalit's minor tribes." - Telemachus, First Among Conjurers, on the fate of the Desert Empire of the Elves.
Once, the Sand Elves were a great and powerful people, who ruled all of Amol-Kalit, led by god-kings. It is unknown how such a wealthy and prominent civilization came to such an abrupt end. All that remains of them now are their ruins
, which are slowly being swallowed by the desert, the most prominent of which is the Forgotten City, and of course, the Abtati themselves, who now roam Amol-Kalit as nomadic tribes.
The Abtati, however, do not speak of the pharaohs or their former splendor. Indeed, they say these are lies. From the sand we came, they say, and from the sand we have always been. Every tribe has its own story of their origins, but they are almost universally united in their adamance that those ruins left behind in the sands are not, could not, and never have been their ancestors.
They worship the god Abtatu, though this is not their only deity. Some pray to the Annunaki Pantheon
, but ever first to Abtatu. Some say Annuk and Abtatu are one and the same. Some say the Annunaki are merely parts of Abtatu. The tale has shifted and changed with each retelling, passed down in their oral traditions.
Their stories of their history and their gods are made even more splendid in the oration by their abilities with magical illusions. When the speaker talks of birds, she will call forth a flock shimmering birds in the night sky with magic, who circle and dart about, or the image of a cobra, slithering up from the desert and rearing its hooded-head. Those outsiders lucky enough to witness such a telling return in awe.