Cherokee legends speak of beings known as the yunwi amai'yine'hi ("people of the water") who dwell in rivers and lakes. The native tribes living near the great river systems of the Southeast sometimes prayed to these spirits for help in fishing. Stories of fishermen being rescued from danger by friendly water creatures come from encounters with these native faeries.
Like pooka and selkies, the yunwi amai'yine'hi enjoy an affinity with the animal world and can change shape to assume the form of aquatic or amphibious creatures such as fish, otters, frogs or waterfowl. Their faerie selves reflect their particular affinity to some degree.
The yunwi amai'yine'hi tend to stay near rivers or lakes, dwelling in hidden encampments along riverbanks or by the side of a mountain lake. They are fond of fishing, boating and other activities which keep them near their beloved element. These faeries have suffered greatly from the ravages of the tourist industry, which has resulted in the large-scale damming of natural rivers to create "recreational lakes" devoid of Medicine and surrounded by man-made attractions. Many of their ancient freeholds have been buried under tons of water by the dams of the TVA as part of that organization's hydroelectric operations. Thus, although they still have good relations with members of their mortal tribes, the yunwi amai'yine'hi bear no love for non-natives, seeing them as bringers of sadness and destroyers of the natural world. Occasionally one of the water people will form a lasting relationship with a non-native (mortal or changeling) who is willing to forswear the shameful actions of their people and learn the ways of the natural world (particularly the ways of rivers and lakes).
Despite their sorrow at seeing their beloved rivers tamed and controlled by the white invaders, the yunwi amai'yine'hi retain a strong "trickster" streak that allows them to channel their anger at their disappearing world into pranks against the unwary humans who violate their lands. Younglings and braves are adept at harrying wilderness tourists and recreational whitewater enthusiasts, tipping over their canoes or changing into animal form and leaping over their boats.
Although many other Nunnehi see their actions as examples of irresponsible behavior, the yunwi amai'yine'hi know the bitter truth that lies behind their ability to make outsiders look like fools. Occasionally, these pranks can prove dangerous to their victims. Depending on their mood (or Camp), the yunwi amai'yine'hi prankster will either take pity on their victim and come to their rescue, or else will let nature take its course, allowing the victim to "sink or swim" on their own.
The yunwi amai'yine'hi try to keep alive the traditions of their mortal tribes as well as those of other related tribes; thus they combine cultural elements of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and other, smaller tribes that once lived near the rivers of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Although many of their mortal cousins now live in Oklahoma, a land not noted for its wealth of rivers, the yunwi amai'yine'hi have tried to remain in their ancestral lands. This separation from their mortal tribes has cost them dearly, and they are in danger of disappearing. Because of this, the Family's elders have begun seeking guidance from the spirit world as to whether or not they should consider finding mortal hosts for succeeding generations among worthy non-natives. Some have already sought to prepare the way for "adoption" into other mortal tribes.
The yunwi amai'yine'hi are slender and agile, with large eyes that reflect the many colors of the water they love so dearly. Their bodies are covered with a fine coating of fur or nearly invisible scales (depending on their animal attunement), and their hair is dark and flowing. In their true form, these faeries, like pooka, evince some physical traits of their chosen animal — webbed hands and feet for fish or amphibians, whiskers for otters and feathers for water birds. Their mortal guise is almost indistinguishable from normal members of their affiliated tribes, those of the Southeastern United States. Although they prefer traditional native dress for formal occasions, they usually wear clothing that is easily removed or that does not hinder their movement in the water.
- Younglings of the yunwi amai'yine'hi are rambunctious and precocious, excellent swimmers who enjoy spending most of their time in the water; either in human or animal form. They have a hard time distinguishing between harmless pranks and those that put their victims in real danger, such as upsetting the boats of passing campers or whitewater rafters.
- Braves consider themselves to be the caretakers of rivers and streams, and protectors of the wildlife that flourishes in and around their chosen waters. They frequently interact with humans, either as helpers or guides, or as bringers of swift vengeance to those who despoil the waters of their lands. They are fond of spending long periods of time in the form of their chosen animal, learning its ways and thus gaining respect from its totem spirit.
- Elders tend to be less outgoing, spending much of their time near the water, contemplating the wisdom in its constant movement and listening to its songs of power. Their experience and knowledge makes them the true guardians of their chosen waterways, despite the claims of the younger generations.
The yunwi amai'yine'hi live in encampments alongside swift-moving rivers or secluded lakes. Like their cousins, the may-may-gway-shi, they are excellent boaters and fishers and spend much of their time in these pursuits. They tend to steer clear of human settlements, except for those of their mortal tribes.
Birthrights & Frailty Edit
- Affinity: Nature
- Shape of the Swimmer: Each yunwi amai'yine'hi has an attunement to a particular form of water creature and may take the form of that creature at will, provided no mortal witnesses are present. (Other yunwi amai'yine'hi or animals may watch the transformation.) It costs one point of Medicine to assume animal form, but reverting to mortal or faerie form costs nothing. The shape change is a true one, giving the yunwi amai'yine'hi all the physical abilities of the animal form taken, enabling individuals in fish form to breathe in water or those in bird form to fly.
- Stir the Waters: These faeries are able to control the waters in their area, causing sudden whirlpools to spring up in a calm lake or temporarily stilling a dangerous patch of whitewater. To do so, the yunwi amai'yine'hi must roll Manipulation + Occult (or Spirit Lore). Three successes or more allows the character to create the desired phenomenon, while fewer successes gives only an approximation of the effect intended. A botch results in the opposite of what was intended, such as increasing the fury of a stream or causing still water to become temporarily rigid, as if frozen. The effects last for one scene.
- Snare of the Hunter: Whenever a yunwi amai'yine'hi is in animal form and becomes the prey of a human hunter or fisher, they must make a Willpower roll (difficulty 8) to avoid surrendering to an animal-like panic which prevents them from reverting to their natural form or using their Arts to escape or elude their pursuer. If they fail, they will be unable to do anything except flee in terror, relying only on their animal abilities to get away. If they manage to find a temporary place of safety, they may try again to regain their composure, spending a point of Willpower to assume their true form so that the person hunting them loses track of their quarry.
Views of Others Edit
- Canotili: They are right to test the mettle of intruders in their lands. They too have much to lose from the ways of the invader.
- Inuas: Fellow water-lovers, they too are close to their animal brothers and sisters. Perhaps one day we can brave the cold and pay them a visit.
- Kachinas: They are fortunate. There will always be clouds in the sky, but one day our rivers may dry up entirely. Perhaps they will teach us the ways of the air.
- May-may-gway-shi: We share many common interests, but we could teach them a thing or two about tricks.
- Nanehi: They are great collectors of songs and stories. Perhaps we can sing our water songs for them so that the music of the rivers will not be lost if we are gone.
- Nümüzo'ho: How sad to be so big and ungainly and to know only the hardness of rock. Can they swim, or do they sink in the water like the stones they shape?
- Pu'gwis: Did they anger the spirits to make them so ugly? Perhaps that is the only way they can survive. Someday, maybe we will ask them.
- Rock Giants: We may resent the mortals who have taken our lands and changed the courses of our rivers, but we would never go so far as to make a meal of them.They should learn to release their anger more gently.
- Surems: I wonder if they consider the laughter of the river and the thunder of the waterfall too noisy for their liking?
- Tunghat: How can they be masters of animals when they cannot truly know the feeling of having wings, feathers or fur?
- Water Babies: If they do steal mortal children, maybe it is to teach those young ones proper respect for the world around them. We should not judge them too harshly.
- Yunwi Tsundsi: They are our cousins, but we differ in our regard for those who have intruded upon our lands. They are more willing to forgive than we are, although they sometimes rival us in their pranks.