A clan cursed to never truly belong, the Karura are believed to once have been birds, but now they are cursed with mutating into humanoids. While not every member holds the clan's kekke genkai [The Birthright], all yearn for the sky.
The clan has found a home in Yukigakure no Sato.
“We are the children of the sky.”
That’s a bold claim, and the Karura take it and run with it. Well, fly with it, but you get the idea. The Karura were once a clan about freedom- the freedom to run, the freedom to fly, the freedom to see and think as one pleases, to rule when you had the aptitude for it. Those days are long gone, but vestiges of the ideal remain.
If the Karura are to be believed, they are not humans who aspire to the birds, they are birds who were cursed with being humans. According to the myths, the Karura were sapient birds, blessed with the power of chakra as all living beings are. But they prided too much in their power. They thought to challenge the gods themselves, flying so close to the sun that it signed their wings to an ugly black. They were smited from the heavens, forced to wear the guises of men, while still retaining vestiges of what they once lost. It was the ultimate curse- to be neither of the air or of the earth.
This is all myth and legend, sure, but it forms the backbone of the Karura culture. Such things are what have given them hope and community in times of darkness. They once owned the sky, they once challenged the sun- and they could do it all again. Someday.
Nowadays, their wings have been clipped by shards of ice, ambitions grounded by winter winds. The Karura emphasize caution and patience above all things. Their time will come, they will be to soar once more. But only if they wait, only if they weather the storm.
The Karura have a lot of internal discourse on this front. What is more noble: to fight the winds in the name of flying, or accept the ground for what it is? There’s never been a true correct answer, and ever since their exile, the Children of The Sky have argued endlessly about it.
In their homeland, the Karura were once considered close to all powerful. So much has changed since their homeland was all but lost to war and imperialism. The Karura hail from the tiny Land of Birds, on the border of Tsuchi no Kuni, famous for its Iwagakure, and Kaze no Kuni, equally famous for its Sunagakure. There, the Karura ruled as fairly as they thought they could. The lesser people of the land did not mind them so much, but such days of prehistory were going to fade eventually. Much like its neighbor Arashi no Kuni to the east, Tori no Kuni was the battlefield for the First Shinobi World War.
The Karura could not hold the onslaught of enemies on all sides back. Many died on all sides, and the Karura were all but wiped from the face of the earth. The Zenith Throne lay cracked and empty at the top of the mountain. The Karura were forced from their homeland by the war and by the people. Why had they been unable to save anybody? How could they be so weak? Why would they let these blasphemous pretenders rule without any power to back them up? The Karura could not answer these questions satisfactorily, and so they were exiled.
On land and in the air, the Karura wandered the world for decades, dodging as much conflict as they could. They got very good at surviving, because it was all they had. They needed to live in order to continue their legacy. They could not return to their homeland, and the gates were barred on every city they dared draw near to.
There were many battles in those days, all through the Second War. The Karura were thought to be monstrous raiders, hideous abominations to be destroyed lest they take all anyone held dear. The Karura gave up trying to explain what and who they were to these people. They merely fought and died and survived. It was all they had.
Wandering around the world, the Karura often came under fire for the way that they looked. Their birthright was considered hideous and monstrous. The fact that the highest among those with the Birthright could barely communicate with the regular humans only made such comparisons to monsters all the stronger.
They ran into ninja from the snow during the Second War. Those that let them speak found that there could be a place for them. Yukigakure, as it was called, was a harsh place. It was not a place anyone wanted to go to. But, a group of exiles had formed a home there. Perhaps the Karura, another band of exiles, could also nest there, if only for a little while.
The Second War came to a close for nary a year, and the Karura took what they had and escaped the mainland for the sea. The ocean is not a place the Karura had ever truly ventured before. The process was exciting and terrifying for all involved. Many ships were lost to the ice and the waves, as the Karura had very little idea of what they were doing. Even still, they made it to the frozen Yuki no Kuni, the Land of Snow.
The Third War had just begun by the time the battered and bloody Karura had made it to the walls of Yukigakure. Given that it was wartime and the clan had skills nobody could replicate, they were welcomed with open arms. The Karura count themselves lucky that they managed to arrive at just the right time. Perhaps had they been later, their legacy would have frozen in the snow.
The Karura made a name for themselves in Yukigakure by providing a power nobody else could match: true flight. The Second Yuki Lady had made her name in recruiting various allies to her side to use as mercenaries. The Karura were trained to be shinobi not out of a sense of pity or mercy (the snow affords no luxuries) but out of pragmatism. The Karura were willing and able, and so they transitioned from wanderers to shinobi.
The Karura participated in very small numbers during the Third War, serving as mercenaries and strike force members. Their speed and inhuman visage proved effective in scare tactics, and they helped turn the tide of battles. Their numbers managed to stay relatively even throughout this period, which was a miracle.
Ever since, the Karura have lived just outside of town, building houses and nests and recuperating their many losses. The clan dislikes interfacing directly with the public, but some have been known to venture into the market despite the looks they get from people.
The Karura have a homeland once more, even if it is not what they once had. And even if they may be reclusive now, they will fight for what they have crawled so far, beak and talon, for.
The Karura are defined by a strict hierarchy, one that superficially resembles anything like what they had back in their homeland. Things are structured by age, ability, and power. The eldest are not always the most able, nor the most powerful. These things are taken into consideration now, where they were not in times past.
Specifically, those that have no hope of flying, not because of age or injury, but because of physiology. Children are traditionally Fledglings, as those who will have wings not grown them yet, and are locked to the ground. Some will never surpass this moniker, even as they move into other roles within the clan.
A title specifically reserved for one person within the clan. They are basically the clan’s “Face” to the public world. They cannot have any signs of the Birthright (which makes them inherently grounded), and most who have held the position would not even qualify as having any part of the Kekkai Genkai. They deal with the public- with the ruler of the land, the people who live nearby, with merchants. During the initial exile, this role was invaluable, as people often mistook the Karura for monsters.
The builders and laypeople of the clan. Nesters build houses, they build centers of community. They are what the clan has survived on the backs of since the dawn of time. Most members of this position are not very high up in the Kekkai Genkai ladder, as human hands are very useful in this regard.
The Wardens take care of the children and the sick. It is said back before the Karura were cursed with human bodies, the Wardens kept watch of all of the eggs, fanning them with combinations of fire and wind chakra from their wings. Such days are long gone, but the role still remains for the caring and the patient.
The Watchers traditionally have to have wings, as they are the scouts and hands of the Karura. They find things, take them, and bring them back. These needn’t be physical. Knowledge of a storm or bandit raid is just as valuable as prey for the dinner table. They need to be swift, agile, and willing to put their necks out for the clan.
Sitting at the highest point in the clan, the Zenith is so named for the throne on which they sat back in their homeland, settled high up on a mountain. The Land of Birds was known for such things. Now, in the Land of Snow, such a title has lost all meaning except in the metaphorical sense. The Zenith is the clan’s leader. They are the most adept, the most powerful, and traditionally have a very intense form of the Kekkai Genkai.
The Highborn are not a position more than they are a designation. Those who have progressed so far into the Birthright that they are close to what the Clan believes they came from: truly divine birds. One cannot be known as a highborn without the highest level of mutation. Human speech is often difficult. What little they do say is regarded as sage wisdom.
Birthright of the sky
In the simplest sense of the word, the Karura are bird people. Though not all born under the name possess the Kekkai Genkai (known as The Birthright) and those that do have it do not all possess the same level of ability and mutation. As a cultural note, the Karura look very down upon those who use contracts, most likely due to their affinity with birds. All Levels are inclusive. The Powers of a Level 1 are included in Level 2, for example. A mechanical breakdown of the clan’s Kekkai Genkai is as follows:
- Level 0
Most children are born as Level Zero, and then progress further as they age. Some never get past this point, however. Those at Level Zero may have some odd but not inhuman characteristics. Their bones might be more brittle than a normal person’s, their eyes might be a striking shade of yellow or amber, but nothing totally inhuman. If they wanted to, they could pass themselves off as a regular human. The only bloodline ability this level of The Birthright possesses is the ability to speak to all forms of birds, the large and the small. While most birds don’t have much to say, being able to decipher their calls and send back your own is quite the skill to possess, especially automatically.
Level One is where most of the clan sits at. Children who will become the highest level (Level Three) will often develop into this stage at around the age of twelve. At Level One, Feathers start to form, and the idea of wearing normal human clothes becomes uncomfortable at best. Much of the skeletal structure remains, though the eyes become much larger and better at seeing, and the hearing begins to suffer as parts are shifted around. It’s impossible for a Level One to pass themselves off as a regular human, but with large, billowy cloaks it might be possible to pass as just deformed. In terms of mechanical abilities, Level One affords a Karura much better eyesight, at the cost of reduced hearing. They are also much lighter than they should be, as their bones become more and more hollow. This doesn’t do anything for the moment, but will become relevant later. The Karura also grow talons at this stage, making boots an impossibility but giving them the ability to claw their enemies in hand-to-hand combat.
Level Two is the most iconic form of the Karura, even if many will not become this. Those that will usually hit this stage by the
end of puberty, roughly the age of seventeen. Wearing clothes made for humanoids is thrown out the window, as wings form along their arms and their bones get very hollow but tough enough that they won’t shatter. This gives them a measure of flight, though not for more than a few hours, and much of it relies on gliding on air currents- an impossibility in the harsh winds of the north. The human mouth begins to recede, given Level Two Karura a nightmarish maw composed of a beak and human-looking teeth, like that of a swan from hell. This transitory period is usually not nice for anyone.
- Level 3
Often considered a fate worse than death for most people, but a transcendent state of life for the Karura. By the time someone is in their mid-thirties, the transformation is complete. If they will become a Level Three, they will. If not, that’s it. A humanoid bird in truth (instead of an avian human), the skull has completely warped into a bird skull made to sit on a human’s shoulders. The wings become strong and supple, though the hands become less useful and more claw like. Wearing any sort of armor becomes a hinderance, as the weight would keep them from flying. Level Threes mechanically are very, very inhuman. They have the power of true flight, just like their bird ancestors, and their hands have become three fingered claws. They have traded teeth for a beak, and human vocalizations are much harder than they used to be. However, they are incredibly fast and hard to keep locked down.