Created shortly after the Lunar Advent by the then-newborn goddess Klashanna, Saerites (singular saerite) are notable for being the most technologically and cultuarlly advanced of the mortal races, as well as their complete and utter lack of magic.
Saerites are intriguing creatures, and defy classification, but probably qualify as mammals. They stand on four chitinous legs, arranged radially around their body, with the rear legs slightly larger than the forelegs. Their torso, arms, legs, and head are all humanoid in form, but they have an insectoid "abdomen" connected to their humanoid "thorax". The male/female ratio is about 1:1, and along with the humanoid torso exhibiting all trait typical of dimorphic humanoids, females tend to be physically larger and stronger than males, although the differenece is fairly minor. Due to their configuration, they would stand quite a bit taller than a Faeli, but the humanoid elements are actually about the same size. Likewise, the average Saerite lifespan is comperable to that of a human - generally 60-90 years.
The most notable (and bizarre) physical feature of the Saerites is their method of reproduction. Namely, only a minuscule number of their females actually bear children. Any Saerite female may undergo the transformation into a child-bearer (or, as they are commonly known, a Queen) but only if certain conditions are met. Namely, the aspiring queen must consume a biological substance known as "royal jelly" that can be processed by secreted by an existing queen. Generally, one queen is able to produce enough children to maintain the population of a small city, so new queens are created only when attempting to settle a new area or expand the population of a city rapidly. The effects of the royal jelly have several other effects as well, namely scrambling the queen's genetics to ensure diversity in her children, and more or less stopping the aging process. Despite this insect-like behavior, Saerites are technically mammals, and give live birth after a twelve-month gestation period. What makes them unique is that a queen is capable of gestating an almost limitless number of children at once - for the first eleven months, Saerite children grow as eggs in the insectoid abdomen. At the end of the eleventh moth, the egg hatches and the embryo is transferred to the queen's "humanoid" womb, where they finish growing and are eventually born.
Also, while males lack traditional male genetilia, they are capable of coughing up a phlegm-like substance that carries their genetic material. Generally, this substance is gathered and mixed into royal jelly, once again to ensure genetic diversity. However, it is possible for a non-queen to ingest the substance. Pregnancy is an excruciating process for those saerites not augmented by royal jelly, and it is not a common choice, but it is possible for a saerite couple to conceive a child on their own, rather than adopting one.
Its amazing just how much of the culture of humanoid creatures is shaped by the concept of family - parents, children, brothers and sisters. So it is to be expected that oddities may arise in a culture where blood relations mean so little - after all, in human terms, almost everyone in any given saerite city is either the brother or sister of everyone else, those in older cities are aunts and uncles, and those in younger ones are nieces and nephews. So, as mentioned before, it is unsurprising that most saerites feel that such classifications are unimportant.
Instead, the basic social unit of saerite culture is the clique - a small group of individuals that work together towards a common goal or agenda. A clique could be based around absolutely anything, whether a set of theories, a style of philosophy, or a particular art form. Cliques are extremely flexible, and it is not at all uncommon for individual saerites to drift from clique to clique looking for one that catches their interest, or finding a group of fellow drifters and forming a clique of their own. This behavior is particularly prominent in young saerites.
Indeed, saerites have a decidedly unorthodox method of child-rearing. From the time they are born, children are generally passed from clique to clique, receiving different aspects of education from each one - learning history from a clique of historians, and mathematics from mathematicians and so on. While saerites DO have a formal public education system, this "outside curriculum" tends to result in graduates with wildly differing specialties. It is also important to note that wishes of the children tend to be heeded in the process of being handed around - should a child excel in engineering, but struggle and be bored by her history lessons, that is usually taken into account, most likely resulting in her future adoptive cliques being those more focused on those areas in which she naturally excels.
In that vein, saerite society tends to value specialization over generalization (except in the sense of specializing in general study - this is a valuable method of making all the specialists see eye to eye, since a generalist has knowledge in many fields.) Likewise, the concept of "solo projects" is, from their viewpoint, absurd - why strain to cover so many aspects of design at once, when you could be giving your undivided attention to those elements at which you excel? Generally, any project of decent size (basically, anything larger than a written report or simple demonstration) is undertaken through the formation of a clique dedicated to that project - or, for particularly large projects, the recruitment of several cliques to pool their efforts. There are even cliques who specialize in coordinating the efforts of large projects like these(although they are generally formed and disbanded on an as-needed basis)
Saerite views on death are diverse, but almost all saerites equate life with thought - that which thinks, lives, that which does not think, does not live. This outlook has many repercussions - for example, cutting down a tree isn't killing it, since it was never alive in the first place. However, a ghost, for instance, would likely be considered alive, as it could think (of course, depending on the viewer's philosophy, it might ALSO be dead - the two aren't mutually exclusive.
The vast majority of saerites worship Klashanna, but their religion lacks a traditional priesthood (which is to say, there are no clerics, paladins, favored souls, or any other divine class that draws power from Klashanna - and she wouldn't grant them spells even if there were.) Instead, the priesthood takes a "hands on" approach - Klashanna is the goddess of invention, and her followers are a motley collection of tinkers, engineers, philosophers and doctors - the biggest requirement is that you have ideas, and the will and drive to turn them into reality. Her "temples" oven bear more resemblance to a university than a place of worship, complete with pajama-clad professor rushing across the lawn to test his latest idea in the communal labs.
The greatest of Saerite holidays is the week of Collaboration - a week in which every clique, every city, every nation sends their best and brightest to meet. And what a meeting it is. It is a little known fact that thoughts are sentient - put enough of them together, and they have a way of running off without their owner's permission.
On a personal level, Saerites display as much diversity as any other race - they have their good and their bad (although significantly more of the former - in game terms, they'd probably qualify as Usually NG) , their geniuses and dunces, (and to be fair, any society without a few healthy idiots is pretty much doomed to implode) their optimists (Wait, if I just reverse the polarity then there's a chance that it won't...) and their realists (Yes it will. Stop messing with that and give a a hand over here.) but one trait almost every saerite shares is a drive for progress - the line of thinking being "You can never make it perfect, but you can always make it better."
The Five NationsEdit
Saerites were the first mortal race to form an orginazation larger than a single city-state. These five "Nations" are largely cooperative, and while rivialries exist, they tend to be friendly ones.
Location - Western Progress
Capitol - Grimm
Government - Queen Elisabeth rules Valla as an absolute monarch - if a gentle one
Notable Features - The mines and quarries of Valla produce much of the ore used in other parts of Progress. Vallan designs and inventions are notorious for their no-frills attitude, and things are built to last - some of the best metalworkers in Progress learned their trade in Grimm. If anything nasty floats over from Despair, Valla will be the first to know - and some of their Chemists are just itching to test out this wonderful substance that's been turning up in the mines...
Location - Central Progress
Capitol - Hoffnung
Government - Queen Serra rules Coona as a constitutional monarch - her powers are strictly limited, but she is indisputably the one in charge.
Notable features - Coona is best known for its philosophers and teachers - Hoffnung was home to the world's first University, and to this day it is home to some of Progress's finest thinkers. Serra also often serves a a mediator between the various nations, and most international meetings (including Collaboration) take place somewhere in Coona.
Location - Eastern Progress
Capitol - Staunen
Government - Lady Isabella handed over ruler ship of Pulse to her children when she founded the nation, and it is currently the only one of the five to employ universal suffrage. Any Citizen may vote on the issues of the day - although it is generally discouraged to vote for those things that you have no stake in. Issues that, while vital, are not important enough to be put to the Vote are handled by a small council appointed by Lady Isabella - although allowing such an appointment is also put to the Vote, no nominee has ever been vetoed by the populace.
Notable Features - Pulse is the beating heart of technological innovation in Progress. It was in Pulse that the first roads were built, and many of the continent's most ambitious engineering projects trace their roots back to a Staunen-based clique. Also, Staunen is currently the only one of the national capitols built on the coast - though admittedly, no one has yet devised a way to traverse the stormy seas of the eastern coast. Yet.
Location - Northern Progress
Capitol - Neid
Government - Like Pulse, Midgar is a democracy, and the Citizenry may vote... but unlike Pulse, that privilege is strictly regulated. In order to earn the Vote, a would-be Citizen must pass a series of brutally difficult exams. This condition was imposed by Lady Nadia as a conditional to her surrender of power - that only those with the sharpest minds would have a say in the rule of the nation.
Notable features - Midgar is known for its embrace of many of the more cerebral disciplines of science. Mathematicians, astronomers, and others who prefer facts and figures to wheels and pulleys find a haven in the halls of Neid and its sister cities. Midgar is the smallest of the nations, and much of its land is swathed in dense forests, making the network of roads vital to the survival of some of the smaller settlements.
Location - Southern Progress
Capitol - Klagen
Government - Ulan is ruled by a small council of representatives. Each Queen sends a representative to give voice to the needs of her city - these form a council that debates the best course for the nation. While she does not have and actual vote in the council, Lady Cassandra mediates the debates, and wields a significant amount of power in her own right.
Notable features - For one thing, Ulan is easily the largest nation on Progress, and its vast green fields and gentle rivers (as well as near-constant rain) provide many of the crops used elsewhere in Progress. Perhaps as a result of this, Klagen is serving as the birthplace of a strange new science - some of the more ambitious cliques claim that their work will one day fend off Death himself, but only time will tell what could come of the mad rambling of these Biologists.