Table of Contents
kavkema are primarily nomadic and preferentially travel in groups. The general claim is that the best number of kavkema for travel is two - the smallest possible number allowing that, should one be poisoned or trapped, the other might get them out of the resulting mess.
Regardless, some kavkema do choose to live in a largely solitary fashion, and others crowd together into larger groups or even organisations.
kavkema tend to live by an impromptu mixture of democratic group consensus and individual consent. It doesn't scale very well, but usually doesn't have to. As a general rule, they are quite shy to invoke authority or demand anything from the unwilling unless it is pivotal for group safety that they do so, meaning they err on the side of permitting eccentric behaviours. That said, they have an instinctual aversion to certain pushy behaviours from their fellow kavkema - likely because it would quickly unbalance their attempt at harmony - and may sometimes be a bit quick to distance themselves.
In many kavkem subcultures, ryrhakenema have de-facto leadership roles, either being the go to for all kinds of advice, or even expected to literally lead or guide the group through the perils that might otherwise await them.
Female kavkema make reproductive choices. It's natural for them to be in this position of authority - rape of kavkem women does not pay off, as they will simply destroy the resulting eggs.
They are nonetheless fairly fertile and do not have a 'heat' phase.
Generally speaking, eggs do not enjoy as strong a protection as one might believe. From an evolutionary point of view, mothers did not have the strongest possible emotional ties to eggs as to be able to destroy them if they were raped (and they do have the corresponding instinct). As such, there was ancestral precedent to egg destruction, and for maximal use of nutrients, the eggs were usually resorbed by eating them.
Culturally, many kavkema are anti-natalist - and it would be all of them if those resistant to the idea in absolution had not outbred those that were steadfast in their view, but it is nonetheless a very common meme. This means that even eggs from voluntary couplings are destroyed and eaten surprisingly often.
In most (but not all) regions, eggs will be destroyed (but, due to lack of time, not eaten) in cases where Nayabaru attempt to get them and there is no quick way to get the eggs to safety instead.
Hatchlings are granted more protection, but they may also be eaten while they are too young to gather or hunt for food themselves (the first two or three weeks, depending on individual maturation speed). This is culturally accepted, but not usually practised - there is usually no need to do so. Evolutionarily, the basis for hatchling cannibalism came from when there were scarce resources (although in those cases, usually the eggs were already destroyed and eaten).
Generally, kavkema are fairly blasé about death. It's no problem from their perspective and may in fact be a pleasant thing if circumstances are torturous. So even adult kavkema are at risk of murder by their fellow kavkema, though this is strictly limited to situations where they would almost certainly agree that death would be the better fate.
Stance on suffering
kavkema abhor the idea of suffering, and optimise a few things in accordance to this abhorrence:
- How to kill other beings quickly and, ideally, painlessly.
- How to kill themselves - the theory of this is usually taught to kavkema that don't grow up isolated at an early age.
- To always weigh future suffering against the present - if a short while of present suffering can prevent a large amount of future suffering, the present suffering should be preferred.
Levels of intimacy
Two kavkem will always have some relationship between each other that they can put a name to. It will be one of the following:
A q'umok relationship can be understood to be roughly analogous to the prerequisite for a human handshake. It allows mutual light preening and open conversation. Any interaction with each others' necks or underbellies is prohibited.
This is the default relationship kavkema have with each other when they meet. Deviations may occur if the person met is of some fame (be it positive or negative), in which case initial impressions may be either yai-se͡ira or kaaru. Absent this fame (or sometimes, in sufficiently sceptical individuals, even present such fame) the only way to transcend a q'umok relationship is to become used to each others' scent.
An ita relationship can be understood to be roughly analogous to casual human friendship. It allows full upper body preening and short stints of rubbing muzzles against each others' flanks; however, underbellies are fair game only if both parties agree to it.
Having only ita relationships is not a stable configuration for a kavkem psyche. It's still very distant for them, since it disallows some of the physical contact they consider vital part of polite social interaction.
The relationship may progress to something more after growing up together (the two to three formative years kavkema would consider childhood), living together for the same duration, or (regrettably very frequent in recent decades) when there aren't any other options to bond with and time is scarce and both parties are willing.
A se͡ira relationship might best be compared to a close human friendship, although it differs in several important ways: In difference to a human close friendship, se͡ira is a sexual relationship - strictly non-procreative, but nonetheless rather intimate. On the other hand, a se͡ira relationship lacks some of the traits humans might consider essential to a close friendship - spending much time together or trusting each other with one's life. In those aspects, it is far more casual. Any sexual interactions fill a niche similar to board game nights or parties for humans - it's a social past time.
Presumably, the evolutionary reason the ita stage of kavkem acquaintance even bothered to develop is to ensure that any diseases were easy to make out before engaging in any sexual activity.
An optional relationship stage amongst kavkema and when present, often a fleeting interim stage before it becomes amanat, the yai-se͡ira relationship is triggered by a great favour being done between the kavkema. This may be something as heroic as saving the others' life during a hunt gone awry or something as superficially mundane as trekking for several months to meet up, or searching for each other when it's unclear whether there's anyone left to search for. (However, this is kept distinct from chance encounters in the wild, and it would be difficult to fake the body language to pretend that a chance encounter was actually a 'great favour' in retrospect.)
In either case, there's nothing subtle about the transition from se͡ira to yai-se͡ira. If the se͡ira relationship was emotionally only luke-warm between the kavkema before the event, it usually changes drastically and for the better.
A yai-se͡ira relationship bears more than passing semblance to close friendship as humans as understand it - kavkema that've reached this phase of intimacy will spend a lot of time together and trust each other completely. They don't usually bother to have more sexual interactions than they had before, though.
Kavkema that have been se͡iraa to each other for long enough may choose to become amanata (literally “allies”). This can be a very emotional decision (in the case of yai-se͡iraa) or a purely rational one (in the case of a luke-warm se͡ira relationship). In either case, the decision is twofold: To brave the world together, regardless what might happen, and to, if philosophies and genders permit, have children. As already alluded to in previous sections, in a heterosexual relationship, the female kavkem decides on the matter of children with finality.
Amanata are not usually monogamous, though given the scarce numbers of kavkema in recent centuries, they may often appear to be. Nonetheless, a human romantic relationship comes close to capturing what amanata are for each other, although the more rational variant might leave humans guessing at the kavkem motives - rational amanata relationships are usually based on recognising each other as possessing complementary skills, or, in extremely rare cases, simply on a decision to bear children. In A Thread Between The Stars, Sanathi and Jeneth were rational amanata; in the Tarnish roleplay continuity, Baishar and Ryrha were (for a time) rational amanata.
In this day and age, kavkema are usually excellent at getting along with each other, even if they're strangers, given how important mutual help has become and how slim an individual kavkem's chances for survival are. This doesn't rule out bad actors, though, it merely makes them extremely improbable.
A kavkem might make a poor first impression upon another kavkem, but even that is usually not cause for a kaaru branding - kavkema are fairly lenient when it comes to eccentricities, poor wording or poor body language. Aggressive behaviour on the first meeting, however, regardless how it manifests (battle, verbal abuse, rape), will almost certainly brand the offender kaaru.
A kaaru is not integrated into social processes - they will not be allowed near enough for any sexual interaction, nor even so much as a superficial preening. That's the theory, at least. Some kaarua might well be strong enough to win such an exchange, especially if they're opposing a single kavkem, rather than a group of them.
A particularly persistent kaaru may end up acquiring something of a reputation. If they're notorious enough that stories are told about them and warnings are spoken to other kavkema, there is a good chance they will be branded kiikam. This is more added superstition than a distinct relationship - the relationship behaves like kaaru in every way but for the stories and warnings told.
Since most relationships are not based on emotional connections, relationships between kavkema don’t typically deteriorate. It's hard for an amanat relationship to revert to a se͡ira relationship - there's no particular reason to part ways, unless there was a grave error in assessment.
Similarly, yai-se͡ira does not usually revert to a se͡ira relationship - whatever triggered the change to yai-se͡ira can't very well be undone, after all. However, yai-se͡ira does have an emotional component which can wither. If trust between kavkema is sufficiently eroded, they may consider themselves only se͡ira. Coming to this realisation would be distressing for them, however, and they may try to prevent this from happening - it feels fundamentally unnatural to downgrade a relationship, and they may cling to it despite being emotionally incompatible.
Also worth noting is that the relationships don’t form a hierarchy. A se͡ira relationship is not considered inherently inferior to an amanat relationship - they fill different niches. Even a q'umok relationship is not necessarily inferior to an amanat relationship, except if the kavkem is so deprived of social contacts to have no relationships at or 'above' se͡ira.
However, given how valuable deep trust is amongst kavkema - even though most trust is given freely even amongst strangers, there is still a fundamental urge amongst kavkema to learn to trust each other further still - the most valued relationship amongst kavkema is that of yai-se͡ira (or amanata based on a prior yai-se͡ira relationship).