To Fly on Metal Wings
Humans are the most numerous of the races within the Aetheria, and the greatest builders of civilization. Intense population pressure has forced humanity to develop complicated systems of social ordering from which arise natural politicians, bureaucrats, and merchants. They have nearly as quick a grasp of teknomancy as the gnomes, but their real gifts lie in finding new ways to use existing technology. Humans also display the widest range of genetic variance, and their beliefs, gods, morals, and societies are as varied as they are.
They range in height from 4’5” to 6’ at the tallest, with most men being around 5’5” and most women around 5’1”. A human who lives past the age of twelve can expect to live at least into their 60s, though the wearing of age accelerates rapidly after that. Humans come in many varieties, but most have fair skin and dark hair.
Gnomish populations tend to be densely concentrated around major cities; they are a social race and it is rare for gnome travelers to settle in a town or city without an established gnomish community. Gnomes are great tinkers, and play an integral role in the progress of industry wherever they are settled. As a result many gnomes have become very wealthy, and their fondness for their own kind has led to a sort of nepotism that has made gnomish communities collectively very wealthy. Since the destruction of Martus Ankara, gnomes have not constituted the majority population of any island, but large gnomish communities thrive on Crestingwick, Drakar, Ruhn, Hollen Moor, and the Nemois. Gnomes produce the best mechanists and engineers, and in military service they tend to make excellent officers, particularly in the artillery. They are adequate sailors, making up for what they may lack in sailing ability by their use in repairing malfunctioning equipment aboard ship.
The shortest gnomes are approximately 4’, while the tallest may reach 4’9”. The average male gnome is 4’6”, and the average female gnome is 4’3”. Their birth rate is much lower than among humans, but many more children grow to adulthood, and few gnomes die naturally before 75. Gnomes generally have ruddy skin but very fair hair which lightens with age such that most gnomes over 45 have totally white hair.
The elves long inhabited the barren crags of the rocky upper islands where they thrived, in isolation from the rest of the Aetheria, descending only to raid the shipping of the lesser races. Once they considered themselves the favored of the Gods, and even after the Godslaying they continued to receive the blessing of immortality… for a time. After long years of decline in the face of true mortality, the Elves abandoned their homes in the known Aetheria and fled into the outlands, never to be heard from again.
Elves made excellent, if wild and uncontrollable, warriors. They were strong and agile, and were naturally inclined to combat aboard airships. They made the best sailors out of all the races, as they appeared to have some sort of natural connection to or affinity with the wind. They were expert archers; an elf with a bow is as dangerous as a man with a rifle. Their race also produced a number of elves called ‘druids’ who were capable of wielding some sort of low-Resonance magic. Rumors that this is ‘divine magic’ were proven false by several studies performed by the late Arch-Professor Willickers, who showed that druidic magic is actually just very difficult to detect. Their average height was 5’6” for an elf woman and 5’11” for an elf man. They were frequently tattooed, and though their skin was naturally as fair as most human’s, their lives in the upper islands exposed them to much more sun and invariably left them deeply tan.
The dwarves are a solid and dependable race living in mountain fortress-cities on the great continent. Non-dwarves are not permitted to enter their cities, and the few dwarves who converse with other races never reveal the secrets of their cities. Their ancestors are believed to have built their homes by carving tunnels into mountains, though modern dwarves prefer to build cities in the crags and atop the plinths of those same mountains, perhaps because they have run out of room within the mountains. They are a naturally martial people, vigorous and strong; necessary traits for any race which lives on the monster-infested continent. They produce fine craftsmen and excellent warriors, and their cities are the best built and best defended fortresses in the Aetheria.
The average dwarf woman (beardless, despite many rumors to the contrary) is 4’5” and the average dwarf man is not much taller, at 4’7”. Dwarves have the same ruddy complexion as gnomes, but their hair (worn long) is generally the color of onyx, or else copper, amber, or silver.
The Orcs are a populous race that lives in scattered tribal villages throughout the continent. They are fierce warriors, somewhat barbaric in temperament and quick to anger, but the adverse circumstances of their lives must be considered. Their camps are constantly at war with the jungle around them and with each other. The soil on the continent is poor, but they must maintain large populations if they are to have any hope of surviving the constant predations of the jungle’s monsters. They breed quickly and grow to maturity faster than any other race. This has made the orc tribes transplanted to the middle islands over the years extremely valuable allies and extremely dangerous enemies. Duke Faros, among other nobles, is said to employ a corps of orc berserkers as bodyguards.
An orc is fully physically and mentally mature at 14. Their men average 6’, and their women average 5’9”. They have greenish-grey skin, which they frequently dye with bright paints. Orcs have thus been seen in every color of the rainbow, and many with all the colors of the rainbow on their bodies somewhere.
Goblins enjoyed a relationship with orcs much like a primitive version of the one that gnomes enjoy with humans. Smaller and less physically adept they provided valuable skill as craftsmen and spies. Over the years the goblins have flocked to the islands in great numbers. Though a rare sight on some islands, they are increasingly common in others, including the great metropolis, Holle. Goblins do not cling together like gnomes, but tend to disperse widely such that real goblin communities and the attendant political influence have always eluded them, except in Technogobbistan. They are largely accepted by the bulk of society, but there is a current of anti-goblin racism among some of the least educated echelons of society. Goblins are often portrayed in penny dreadfuls and other such lowbrow entertainment as thieves, swindlers, and bumbling klutzes. The misanthropic adventures of the Goblin hero ‘Diggel’ have been much celebrated over the years in certain literary circles, and many children of good breeding learn their basic letters from an illustrated copy of “See Diggel Steal”.
Goblins are a brighter green than orcs, and less inclined to painting themselves. They have no hair, and many who operate within human society are sufficiently embarrassed by this fact that they develop an unusual predilection for hats. They are very short, the average male goblin being 4’4” and the average female goblin is 4’.
Elkin are rarely seen by other civilized races; even more so than the other anthromorphs they prefer the solicitude of the wilds. When their paths do cross with the other races, Elkin are always accorded great respect; they are slow to speak and slow to act, but their acts and deeds are always well considered and deliberate. They are ill suited for the swift cut and thrust of high society, and their independent temperament makes them poor soldiers, but they excel as wise counselors and mediators. They are said to have a close connection to the land, and to have a natural affinity for druidism.
Elkin are larger even than orcs, being rarely shorter than 6’2, and very broad. Their bodies are covered, hoof to antlers, in shaggy fur. Most often they are tawny, but other colors are not uncommon. They stand on two hoofed legs, have massively muscular backs and thick arms ending in human-like hands (though they have only four fingers on each), and the heads of elk, complete with antlers and prominent beards in the case of the men. Much artistry goes into the beading and braiding of these beards, and it is said that the patterns woven into them convey much information to anyone who knows how to read it.