SinistralsSinistrals are the sibling race to humanity, with a broadly similar phenotype to humans. They consider humans to be their sibling race. The real-world name derives from the word "sinister", in canon it is a corruption of ŝinorado (shin-no-rado), which is their eponym for themselves. They have a broadly similar physiology to humans, but display much wider sexual dimorphism. This results in Sinistrals being easy to tell apart between male and female, with even male speech differing from female speech, when speaking their native language. Sinistrals are known to live for up to a thousand years, and their intelligence rivals even the most brilliant human minds.
PhysiologySinistrals have much faster metabolism than humans do, as a consequence of larger hearts, livers, and lungs. They require 30-50% more calories compared to a human of the same mass. This also means they're usually resistant to the effects of drugs and alcohol, moreso than humans, feeling nothing from tobacco, and taking much more alcohol to get intoxicated. Sinistral healing factor is less than that of humans, but doesn't generally leave scar tissue. They possess two magic sensing organs under their chin on either side, covered by skin. These organs will heat up in the presence of magical residue and leaking, allowing them a rudimentary form of magical detection.
Sinistral skin color is near consistent - an intermediate white-olive color. Their hair and eye color varies much wider, with blue, red, pink, grey, white, and all colors between for hair, and eyes being almost any color besides black. They do not grow facial hair. By far the most striking feature of the Sinistrals is their tattoo-like skin patterns. These are formed from birth and vary by sex. The females have rounded, organic patterns that can resemble vines, flowers and more, and males have fractal and geometric patterns. Each one is unique, like a fingerprint. The warpaint on their faces mimics these patterns on the rest of their body, and removal of it in front of others is seen as intimate for many castes.
Sinistrals, unlike humans, are not altricial at birth, with most able to crawl within three hours of birth, and to immediately recognize their parents. Sinistral children traditionally are not named until they begin to speak, which unlike humans takes the form of parroted vocalizations of what an infant hears. By eight weeks, a Sinistral child can usually parrot short phrases and may begin very basic language comprehension. Children usually begin to manifest full control of basic language by the 8 months mark. By a year old, a Sinistral child will be about the same appearance, age and skillset of a three to four year old human child, and from here, maturation rapidly slows down, as they are considered children into their 30s.
Magical abilities usually begin to manifest in children of about three years of age, and can take almost any form of a child's imagination, though the manifestations are usually weak and harmless, and parents will supervise their children for safety at all times. It is also around this time that the tattoo markings on their bodies begin to take shape and darken.
CuisineSinistral cuisine is highly regional but can moreorless be divided into two regions: North Sinistral and South Sinistral. Between the two, there are numerous food staples. The primary protein is shellfish, especially prawn and crawfish. North Sinistral starch staples include nixtamalized corn, potato, barley, summer wheat, and dalx, a small grain reminiscent of teff. South Sinistral starch staples include sweet potato, rice, dalx and water caltrop. The culture's insistence on self-sufficiency means that most Sinistrals, regardless of social caste, growing some of their own food and raising animals. Common animals are chicken, cattle (only for milk, butter and beasts of burden), pigs, rabbits and cuy.
North Sinistral ingredients include a range of chile pastes which may also include broad beans, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and prickly ash pepper. The primary base peppercorn used are red peppercorns. Squash, snake beans, radishes, mustard greens, and bamboo shoots are common vegetables. Fish and seafood sauces, including a variety of oyster sauce, are consumed and used for flavor. Primary fats are lard and mustard oils, and chile oils make up major condiments. Cooking methods include sear-braise, stir fry, deep fry, oil saute. Because of these methods, North Sinistral cuisine is often characterized as oily or greasy.
South Sinistral ingredients include spice mixes that nearly always include cumin, coriander seed, dried cilantro root, black pepper, oregano and sumac, and this spice blend forms the basis of many larger spice mixes used. White pepper is almost exclusively used in absence of the above spice mix. In lieu of fish and seafood sauces, soy and fish pastes are used, especially in stews. Vegetables include common beans, sweet potato and cassava greens, spinach, peanuts, and day lilies. Cooking methods include roasting, grilling, traditional braise and steaming. Some Sinistrals practice consumption of humans, which is often incorrectly labeled cannibalism. Those castes allied with Arctis forbid the consumption of human flesh and consider it a revolting practice in modern times.
CultureSinistral culture varies by caste, but by and large is patrilineal, females tend to be expected to take up merchant, innkeepers, homebody and other jobs suitable for their sex, where males are more likely to be sea-farers, engineers, warriors and mercenaries. However, they do not divide society, and there exist exceptions to each rule, with no prohibitions for those who choose their own path. Armies are not sex-segregated, however females tend to dominate support roles due to natural talents for these areas.
The virtues of Sinistral culture are: self-sufficiency, education, respect for authority and tradition, and for lower castes, submissiveness to the authority of dominant castes. Children are not named until they have learned to comprehend speech and a parent can understand their child's personality. A this point, if a child displays personality defects, such as sociopathy, unwillingness to work, or unwillingness to comprehend morality at even a basic level, the parents will commit filicide of their child and bury them without a name, as if the child was never born.
CastesCastes are genetically distinct subsets of Sinistral society, and differ in appearance, dialect, culture, and geography, as each caste controls one of many closely linked islands in the sinistral archipelago. Regimentation in society makes them more than clans. A caste determines several traits of the Sinistral, including their talents, weaknesses, physical appearance, and thus their general skill sets. The castes featured or mentioned in the books are:
The Arctis are considered a weak caste, however, due to an Arctis being the current King, they quickly have become a dominant caste.
Notable for lack of warpaint on many members. Their position is generally as scholars, architects, seers, and certain kinds of magicians.
They possess some of the highest intelligence, and a near 100% literacy rate, and are thus known for being incredibly forward thinking, believing in ending the practice of consuming humans.
The spelling "Arctis" is an artifact of historical spelling, when Sinistral had more consonants. The modern name is pronounced with a /k/ representing the c sound.
Considered among the most powerful castes, they are the elite swordfighters. They have incredible speed, agility and sword performance. Their architecture is well-known for its beauty, and they are generally considered honorable.
The highest position of their caste is chief. The current chief is known for having a taste for human flesh.
A caste of two branches. The cadet branch forms their massive army, while the elite branch forms their network of spies.
A caste of elite archers, and generally considered above average, and led by Queen Kařamia. Fanatical to their queen, they are feared by the Kaimo, who are longtime military rivals.
A caste known for being rangers and generally considered middle of the road. They are reclusive, and their island is known to be extremely harsh considering the harsh, extreme mountain climate. They are led by a chief.
The archetypal merchant caste, with a minority of them being farmers. They are among the few castes without prejudice towards humans, as their main motives are trade and the money that trade brings in. They are led by the Head Executive.
A sea-faring and fishing caste well known for their outrigger canoes. They form the primary fishing industry of the islands.
A generalist caste that is below average. Their territory is currently bordering the area around the capital, Legiatâ, and they are allied to the Arctis caste.
A laborer caste, generally geared towards construction, farming and other general laboring. They live far to the southeast.
A caste of gladiators who resolve all disputes in a gladiator-style arena.
A reclusive caste that specialize in mysticism and crypticism arts. Their island has been undergoing a civil war for four hundred years between three factions, only one of which opposes cannibalism.
A caste specializing in ranging, especially horse husbandry, and cavalry forces. They live on the far east side of the archipelago.
An extinct caste that was wiped out 72 years prior during the succession of Erim to the throne. They were elite assassins and occupied the eastern half of the Ikudo's current territory.
The highest position in the caste is either Lord or Lady, which is currently filled by Lady Erim.
Castes live on separate islands, but freely move between them via a network of bridges, canals and channels. The cities and large settlements of each island tend to be cosmopolitan and diverse. There does not exist untouchable castes, but some are considered inferior on the basis of usefulness and combat prowess.