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Vortigaunts are bipedal, with three arms, two legs and a head. They have backward-jointed legs, like a bird, and V-shaped feet with large, hooflike toes. On each arm are two long, thin fingers that end in claws. Vortigaunts have green-brown skin, four nipples, and a navel, suggesting that they are mammals, or at least mammal-like. At the end of it's long, horizontal neck is a head with two tube-shaped ears, a toothy mouth and four red 'eyes,' which are actually four openings of one large eye.
For as long as they can remember, the Vortigaunts have been enslaved. Hailing from an unknown planet, they lived alongside headcrabs, antlions and other alien creatures. They were the slaves of the Nihilanth, a huge, fetus-like being with incredible power. However, their world was soon invaded by the Combine, and the Nihilanth, along with many Vortigaunts and other creatures from their homeworld, evacuated to the border-world of Xen.
They stayed hidden on Xen until the human scientists at Black Mesa opened a portal to it. The Nihilanth used this opportunity to begin invading Earth, sending hordes of Vortigaunts, headcrabs and other creatures into this new realm. However, he was defeated by Gordon Freeman, a Black Mesa scientist, and the Vortigaunts were free again, but not for long.
The death of the powerful Nihilanth actually made the rip in space-time worse, causing worldwide portal storms that spread Xen wildlife across Earth. The Combine used the rift to bring themselves to Earth, allowing them to conquer it in a mere seven hours. The Vortigaunts, along with the humans, were enslaved.
The Vortessence Edit
One of the Vortigaunts' most amazing traits is their ability to tap into the energy source known as the 'Vortessence.' Vortigaunts believe that this energy surrounds them, penetrates them, and binds the universe together. The uses of the Vortessence are many, including, but not limited to, healing, controlling/influencing the minds of creatures or beings, and firing powerful energy blasts. Due to their biology, humans are unable to tap into the power of the Vortessence.
The Vortigaunt Language (called Vortigese by some) is not simply composed of words, as context is shown by using the Vortessence, a practice know as 'flux shifting.' As such, it is fairly difficult for humans to understand it. Here are some sample Vortigaunt words:
Ah'Glaa - Basic, universal term for all Vortigaunts. It can be used as a greeting, a sign of joy, or basically anything. It is also useful to finish off your chants with this, as it is said to bring good luck.
Zurr - "Hello!"
Sen - "Yes."
Kell - "No."
Grak'larr - "Maybe."
Fho mah tosh - "I don't know."
Chur lung gong chella gurr? - "Can you repeat the question?"
Zekt - "Okay"
Ment - "Hurry!"
Tak' Helm - "Follow me."
Muna - "Humans."
Chronic - "Combine."
Ova'pah - "Food."
Leekasa - "Headcrab."
Kroznak - "Zombie."
Hammasune - "Attack!"
Kin - "Other Vortigaunt(s)."
Gerr - "Go!"
Famasune - "Freedom."
Fakkasune - "Slavery."
Lestlah - "Soon."
Telask - "Help!"
Osune - "Water"
Tay'kat - "Noise".
Rebassk - "Rebels."Combine, and do not take kindly of it. The Combine mainly use Vortigaunts for cleaning and other menial tasks, and rarely, if ever, use them as soldiers. Enslaved Vortigaunts are clothed in special bindings that not only cut them off from the Vortessence, but will also explode if the Vortigaunt goes outside of it's designated limits. However, if the Vortigaunt gains the attention and/or pity of a Resistance member or a kind Citizen, they may be able to free it.
Once a Vortigaunt is free, they will almost always try to escape to the city slums. Once in the slums, the newly freed Vortigaunt may either help the local Resistance cell or start a new life, possibly joining up with other free Vortigaunts and human refugees. These small communities usually do not actively rebel, but just try to lay low and avoid the attention of the Combine, eating smuggled food, birds and even Headcrabs.