The Ysandir were a very old race that lived in Tortall long before humans settled there. Now they are mainly considered a myth. However, they inhabited the Black City for centuries, invoking the terror of the Bazhir, who called them the Nameless Ones.
The Ysandir previously lived across the sea, but came to Tortall and took over the Black City.
In Tortall, three thousand years before the events of The Provost's Dog series, the Ianto clan, part of the Ysandir race, were in a war with the Searflame dragon family. The final battle so wrecked the world that it created great marshes where they ripped land with magic, later called the War Gorge Marsh by humans. The Great Gods, with the Cat, tried to put a stop to the battle, but when the Ysandir refused to yield, they began a war with the Great Gods that would eventually lead to their defeat. This war was the first time humans fought on behalf of the gods.
5th century HE
The Ysandir seem to have mainly died out over the time. However, a group of men and women survived over the ages in the Black City, feeding on the children of the Bazhir. The Ysandir called and then consumed any of the Bazhir teenagers they could. Those the Ysandir called would starve themselves if they could not go to them, but their parents would rather they starve to death than die at the hands of the Ysandir.
After Alanna (Alan) noted that Duke Roger was sending a sort of challenge to Jonathan through magic to explore the Black City and certainly meet his death, the Prince urged Alanna to accompany him in his investigation. The Ysandir were shown to be incredibly powerful, and nearly killed both Alanna and the Prince. They also removed Alanna's clothing to reveal her true sex. It seemed that, despite Alanna's excellent swordsmanship and the combined power of her own and Jonathan's magical Gift, only the will and assistance of The Goddess allowed them to defeat the Ysandir.
By 432 HE, when Prince Jonathan and Alanna decided to go to the Black City, only ten of the Ysandir were left. Their names were Ylon and Ylanda (the leaders), and Ylira. The other seven were never named during the book, but they did fight Alanna and Jon.
Ylon and Ylanda claimed that they were the first Ysandir; the most powerful of them all. They were the last to be killed by Alanna and Jon.
All of the Ysandir were extremely attractive. Alanna described them as being so beautiful that it was painful to look at them. The Ysandir were very tall; even the shortest of the women was taller than Gareth I of Naxen. One woman, named Ylanda, had long red nails that were rather clawlike. There was a woman in red named Ylira. One of the other women was a redhead and another was a brunette, while another had snow white hair,. The tallest of the men was Ylon, chief of the Ysandir. He had broad shoulders and a black beard.
All the named Ysandir had names beginning in Y.
Abilities and traits
The Ysandir seemed to have the ability to look into mortals' minds: they knew that the Prince believed that his father would hunt for and destroy the Ysandir, and knew Alanna for a girl. They share this mind-reading ability with the gods, hinting that they are of divine origin or descent. Something to further that claim is the fact that they are immortal beings.
The Ysandir, although ancient, were not immortal like the gods or the creatures known as the immortals were. If they did not feed on human souls, they would diminish and die. Although Ylon claimed that even immortals can weaken and die, and mocked Alanna for thinking otherwise, this is later shown to be false. The race of creatures known as immortals cannot die of starvation or sickness like the Ysandir can, and can only die if they are physically killed. This is shown to be true in 452 HE, when Veralidaine Sarrasri sees that Ozorne Tasikhe was not feeding the starving immortals found in his menagerie, as they could not starve to death, they would just experience severe discomfort. The Ysandir, however, could weaken and die of starvation if they did not consume human souls, unlike the gods or the race known as the immortals.
The fact that the Ysandir can die from things that other immortals don't die from could be because of their origins. The immortals were created by the nightmares and dreams of mortal humans, which strengthens them and keeps them from dying. Although the Ysandir are nightmarish, they did not seem to originate through the nightmares of humans (although it is possible, however), thus making it so they can die of starvation. In the same vein, another possibility for their weakness is that they were created by the nightmares of humans as sorts of soul-sucking succubi but an unintentional "fail safe" of sorts was put in place so that although the Ysandir were terrible, soul-sucking creatures, they would also die if they did not consume human souls.
The Ysandir also can be bound by mortal magic, unlike gods, and were imprisoned within the Black City by powerful Bazhir shamans. Furthering the Ysandir's separation from the immortal races was the fact that they were not exiled from the Mortal Realms when all of the other immortals were sent to the Divine Realms or the Chaos Realms. Another theory could be that the magic set up from the Bazhir to trap them in the Black City kept them from being sent into the Divine Realms, which means that there may be Ysandir clans still alive but not in the Mortal Realms—which is unlikely because The Cat said he missed their music (but perhaps it was just the music of the Ianto clan). The reason why the Ysandir were not exiled to the Divine Realms with the rest of the immortals is not known explicitly.
Something that was explored during The Song of the Lioness Quartet was demon magic. This wasn't explored or touched upon later. In multiple books of the quartet, especially The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, it was seen that demons could be summoned to the Mortal Realms by use of runes—this idea was dropped later. Therefore, it could be that they Ysandir were not of the race of immortals at all, but of a demonic race, making it so they could be trapped in the Black City. It could also explain the difference in immortality between them and the other races of immortals seen throughout the books. As demons in the Tortallan Universe was not explored later, it is unknown where they came from or what parameters for their existence are. The epithet "demon" could just apply to any creature of the immortals that is not friendly, especially Stormwings or Hurroks.
The Ysandir only appeared in Alanna: The First Adventure. Alanna and Jon encountered and defeated them at the end of the novel. They were referred to later on in The Song of the Lioness quartet, namely in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, when Alanna and Jon's adventures in the Black City were told.
They are also mentioned by Pounce in Mastiff, when he tells part of their history relating to the Ianto clan and their wars with the dragons and the gods.