After reading More People Should Write and saying I should be doing more blogging people got impatient, so, I dunno, here's some unsorted fantasy setting bullshit from a few insomniac hours many months ago. Many, many months ago.
The Irin, or the angels, are the dominant race. They are patient, organised, cool, and genocidal. They build wondrous cities with high walls and towers and churches that reach the skies. As angels they of course grow wings - but their wings are made of starlight, and within the cities, don't grow right. They would become big and magnificent... except that they are so fragile that even a touch can crush them, and they never heal. Most irin lose everything except the tiniest stub on their backs early in their youths. It is only by spending their childhood in the wilderness, their nights under the open sky, that they can grow strong and resilient wings.
The problem? The presence of Irin causes imps to spawn in the darkness around them. That's not the reason why they congregate in cities, but it is the reason why every place and corner in those cities is lit throughout the day by lamps, candles or at least luminescent crystals. Any group of Irin that tries to remain organised without bringing a light at night will eventually make a mistake with the constant onslaught of imps, which is why the only ones of them who have their wings right are ones who were brought up by adults of different races. In fact, even a single Irin can cause imps to come into being, and thought and restraint encourage the process - which is why the winged Irin are essentially feral, as that is the only way to ensure they'll actually survive into adulthood and not kill themselves and their protectors.
Naturally, the winged Irin are also the ones who become kings and emperors. Strong, defectless wings afford an enormous amount of respect in Irin society. Feral Irin are often incapable of speech and in any case more or less insane. These leaders' gestures and behaviours are often taken as indication that the Irin should go to war - genocide against other Irin is a common practice among the race.
There has never yet been an Irin who can actually use their wings to fly. Although the muscles are there, none actually have wings strong enough not to break in flight. Historians tell strange tales of attempts such as devices to focus starlight, but they seem to always have been failures. Yet the Irin believe that one day there will be one among them who can fly... what happens after that, there is more than a little disagreement about. A common theme is that they will "unite all of the Irin" - generally by killing all of those who aren't of their particular ethnicity, possibly even everyone outside of their city (or, sometimes, even every single Irin but a few chosen).
Irin are an ensouled species. Their souls, like their wings, feed off starlight. Feral irin have brilliant souls that will wander the world for hours beyond their death, appearing to hundreds and hundreds of people. Most irin city dwellers' souls, however, are horribly shriveled translucent ghosts with dark pits for eyes, that fortunately will disperse in the air soon enough.
The imps are knee-high beings of oily blackness. They live short lives of violence, feeding and what is assumed to be sex. They are born from darkness - as far as anyone can ever tell, imps simply appear into existence by walking out from behind a tree or rising up from under a bush or just simply from a shadow. Light kills them, in two ways. In bright enough light they eventually burn up and die. Even in less light, though, simply seeing them clearly is enough to kill them: They boil off, leaving behind absolutely nothing but air, if an ensouled being can see them well enough to really tell where the darkness ends and the imp begins.
Imps are mindless and unaware of death. In fact, light attracts them. The walls of Irin cities are patrolled by lookouts whose job is simply to see the imps. The darkness around a large city is constantly crawling, with masses of imps running toward the city light, with waves occasionally almost reaching the walls. Smaller villages simply employ a bright light or several at the village center, so that the imps will all congregate around it. This does require their houses to be designed so that they can be kept well shut and that there are no shadows inside them. Irin very rarely live in a community smaller than a village, but if they do, they usually try to simply trust the walls of their house, not really having much of a choice otherwise (walls are far more reliable than any fires they or lamps they could lit at night, after all)
Because of their ephemeral existence, no-one except perhaps the Forest Gods (who are not forthcoming on the issue anyway) know much about the imps' behavior save from the obvious fact that they are remarkably nasty little fellows. A traveller stranded outside an Irin city at night might well be found in the morning with all of their meat gnawed off their skeleton. Around some cities, not even the skeleton will remain. Around smaller villages, well, they'll still be dead, and their bodies will show every indication that their death wasn't a pleasant one.
The Forest Gods live, well, in the forests. They are unensouled irinoids, generally naked except for masks of wood and stone they wear on their faces. A few of them are "healthy", looking like unsexed (but generally male-ish) naked people, but more commonly, they have a variety of disfiguring afflictions: Elephantiasis, "tree disease", too many or too few of various limbs, etc.. They seem to tend to ignore these afflictions. Certainly there's no need for Forest God society to lock them out for want of resources: The trees bend down to offer fruit to them, animals offer themselves to be eaten, etc..
The Forest Gods are incredibly neighbourly and hospitable to anyone who respects their land. The food that the forest offers them, they offer again to the guests, with just as little hesitation. They are curious, intelligent and intellectual, and in their long lives learn a great deal from conversation with visitors. The only limit to their love of conversation is that they will always brush off and resist any attempt to broach a few subjects, such as the origin of beings like themselves (how and whether Forest Gods reproduce is unknown) or imps. Scholars have written entire books of all the jokes Forest Gods use to redirect discussions if anyone should ask about their bodies.
There is one way to definitely get a Forest God angry: Threaten their forest. They go on the warpath in response to the tiniest provocation, and people living in the vicinity of their villages tend to learn soon to avoid living in a way that the Forest Gods don't approve of. Bringing an axe within several kilometers of a forest, for instance, is known to be a really bad idea, something that can bring retribution to an entirely village. Forest Gods are fierce in battle: Although their spears and bows of living wood don't seem too threatening, they use clever, unpredictable small unit tactics, and pay just about as much attention to wounds as they do to their afflictions. Once the threat they saw is gone, they (for their part) immediately let bygones be bygones, and retreat to their homes as suddenly as they attacked in the first place.
Water Gods are much like Forest Gods in almost every aspect. Their bodies are not adapted for the water at all; it seems that the currents simply move them around as they please. They build small villages on the bottom of bodies of water, though their buildings seem to have very little purpose other than making guests more comfortable. They offer visitors magical bubbles of air to breathe in, and love to engage them in conversation over a good meal of the water's fruits.
The Water Gods are even more protective of their living places than the Forest Gods. Even loosing a small village's wastes into a river can be enough to provoke the river's guardians into suddenly attacking without warning and slaughtering the entire village.
The humans look much like the Irin, but are generally slower, and are considered less intelligent and more prone to fits of emotion. What humans have going for them is their incredible endurance: They can keep going, doing physical labor on little food day after day. Scholars mostly consider them an unimportant and uninteresting race, though one that's useful for tasks like construction work or as couriers.
The half-men are irinoids, generally reaching up only to an Irin's waist. They are honest and honorable but malevolent and carry an aura of darkness about them, bringing dangerous weather and pestilence wherever they go. It is usually easy to tell a half-man's age from how much flesh there is left on their body: Over the hundreds of years that they live, they tend to replace one component after another with a mechanical substitute - or an improvement. Irin society rarely has much contact with the half-men, though some enterpreneurs, usually ones who can afford to hire a private military force, have been able to establish useful trade with some groups of them. The more agreeable half-men have been known to pay enormous amounts for certain kinds of rocks and to provide precise instructions for how to dig them from the ground.
The half-men live in cities of their own construction. They are enormous singular enclosed buildings filled with grit and smoke. One reason why Irin are not allowed into the cities is that the imps their presence would spawn would wreak havoc in the darkness inside half-man cities. Half-man eyes are one of the most sensitive and quickly aging parts of their body, and the only mechanical replacements they can manufacture in large amounts are sensitive only to a few specific kinds of light. Beads emitting this light are used as indicators for the older half-men to walk around by.
Half-men are ensouled, and for what it's worth, none of the mechanical replacement has effect on their soul: In death, their ghost appears much like they looked in their youth. Half-man souls do however tend to be darker and more translucent than human souls.
Nitte are ensouled irinoids even shorter than half-men, and far less sturdy. They are agile, canny and curious, and fond of travel and adventure. The home of the nitte is in the sky - either in the mountains, or in the clouds that they have a unique ability to make solid. Their incredible climbing skills often find them employment in irin cities - sometimes in many legitimate professions, sometimes as thieves.
Celotes come from many irinoid species. They become celotes by going through a ritual in which their soul is removed from their living body, in exchange for incredible - possibly boundless - extension to the life of their physical body. The problem? They tend to fade away. After a long enough time, ensouled beings can find it difficult to even notice the presence of a celote, let alone remember it. To unensouled beings, however, celotes are just as much there as anyone else, which is why celotes are often found living in the company of each other or of forest gods. By and large, celotes work best as scholars, spending their time on written correspondence or on advising the younger at their institutions - you might forget that your teacher exists, but you're not going to forget the college.
Other thoughts: Galics (or something; some kind of blind underground people, possibly with a lot of them enslaved by the Irin) Wandering Imps (take damage from daylight and from being seen, but stealthy and deadly? Kind of reeks of gameness though...)
ON THE MATTER OF SOULS
Some of the races are ensouled. It is very easy to tell the difference between an ensouled race and an unensouled one: Just kill one of them. If you yourself are ensouled, you will then see their soul as a smoky, reddish ghost rising up from their body and walking around. Since the seat of the intellect is in the body, the soul itself is mindless: It will tend to move more or less without purpose, eventually disappearing somewhere that no-one knows. Souls can move very fast and be seen at different places hundreds of miles apart within the same hour. They do prefer to haunt people who knew them, and in turn, even if their faces can be different, the people who knew the person tend to recognise the soul as well. In short, when a being of an ensouled race dies, their soul's journey tends to announce their death to all of the people close to them very quickly.
Of the Irin, the integrity of their soul is dependent on whether they grew in starlight. The souls of most Irin are horribly shriveled translucent ghosts with empty dark pits for eyes. Luckily, they disappear from the world within a matter of minutes. However, Irin kings and others with starlight nourishment - the same starlight that also makes their wings grow right - have brilliant souls, even more beautiful than their living bodies, able to stay in the world for hours.
Humans tend to fall somewhere in the middle, though closer to the "healthy" end: A human soul is generally instantly recognisable just by the face, even without the ability of souls to know each other. Unlike Irin souls which tend to try to announce their death to everyone who knew them in the time they have, though, human souls tend to spend their remaining time with just a few of their closest loved ones. They can't communicate, one can't ask them for any secrets, and in any case as far as anyone can tell the soul has already forgotten those things anyway - but some kind of communion and resonance remains.
There are three kinds of nature that living beings can have: The divine, the mundane, and the profane. Do not mistake these for a continuum of any kind: Mundane is not something "between" the divine and the profane, and the divine and profane are no more directly opposed to each other than they are to the mundane. Rather, each nature consists of unique aspects that are not directly comparable with any of the other natures. Also do not mistake them for moral sentiments: Heroes and villains, scoundrels and lawmen, all people can have a divine, mundane or profane nature without it being the determiner of their goodness or evilness.
The divine nature is connection and oneness with God. It manifests in hearing God's voice, in the apparition of angelic wings, and so forth. Some scholars say that there is a seed of the divine in every creature, but everyone agrees that the irin are the most divine of the races by far.
The mundane nature is connection and oneness with the world. The Forest Gods represent the fullness of creatures that only have a mundane nature: As far as anyone can tell, they have no existence beyond their connection with the world. All of humans, half-men and nitte also exhibit a strong mundane nature, whereas the irin are almost bereft of it.
The profane nature is existing as one's own self. All creatures except the Forest Gods, of course, have the profane nature. But the most profane of all are the celotes, who have lost their divine nature and did not have much of a mundane nature in the first place. However rich their internal existence might be, their connection with the world is fragile and as they wane they fade away from others' memories and attention.