|Avg. height:||4.8 ft. / 145 cm|
Elcari [ɛl ˈka rɪ] are an intelligent species found throughout Almea, chiefly in mountainous regions. Almeans consider them a different species than múrtani, but by terrestrial standards they are not, as the two are interfertile. Like humans and flaids, they are hominids.
Elcari are adapted to high, dry climates: they have large chests with powerful lungs, can survive for a week without water, and have large noses with adaptations allowing them to breathe without water loss. They are smaller than men but stronger, especially in the upper body.
They have large ears, and not much hair. In warmer climates they tend to have brown skin and brown or black hair. In cold climates, their skin tends to be reddish and their hair white. Their feet are small with agile toes and powerful ankles, both contributing to sure-footedness on hilly ground.
An Elcar may live as long as 600 years, with 300 years being the average lifespan. As they come to maturity in a mere 30 years, child-raising takes only a small portion of an elcar's life, and the attention of society as a whole. Probably for the same reason, the sexes are not strongly distinguished either physically or culturally. Any division that does occur tends to be based on practical concerns: for example, elcar males, being slightly stronger, do more of the heavy excavation, while females are usually the metallurgical experts.
Traces of the most ancient realms of the elcari are found in Ctelm, Lenani, Elkarin Mountains and Diqun Bormai. The Count of Years mentions that elcari spread to all the continents during the iliu-ktuvok wars, and that they fought in the 'war of subcreations'. After the wars they had lost all the arts of civilization, and reduced to hunting and gathering in the mountains. They owed much to their durability, surefootedness, and resistance to cold.
They domesticated the goat which supplied them with milk and meat. By -21000 they developed agriculture in the valleys and foothills, and textiles.
The elcari began their building complexes (khak) in the mountains, a combination of mines, palaces, and temples, initially as largely surface structures.
In a rather cruel twist of fate, the elcari are forced to share their rather limited mountain habitats with their arch-nemeses the múrtani, which keeps their population numbers down. Their early evolution and their aversion to change ensures that they remain largely within their ancestral homelands, established in prehistoric times.
Their former cities in the Ctelm mountains lie abandoned, their inhabitants having moved to Khatelyên en masse to help counter the múrtani threat.
It was in Khatelyên that the division into elcari and múrtani occurred. Its origins are occluded by legend, but conflict was virtually continuous, escalating into full-scale war around -19000 when the múrtani expelled the elcari from the Elkarin mountains. The elcari returned in force by -16000, with such vigor that large numbers of múrtani scattered far and wide to escape. This brought them from Ereláe to Arcél, where they took the conflict to their indigenous former cousins.
As it is essentially a holy war, it is an integral part of elcari culture, and they are willing to bend their entire civilization to countering this threat.
Around -9000 another great war broke out, which turned in favor to the múrtani; the elcari lost much of Khatelyên proper.
The elcari developed steam technology around -3500, which facilitated their victory in the war, employing steam catapults and primitive tanks. The victory required the immigration of the elcarin settlements in the Ctelm and the assistance of Khak Diqm in the Diqun Bormai).
By -3000, the elcari were victorious in Khatelyên, but only at great cost; both races were so exhausted and depopulated they both would require centuries of recuperation.
Lifestyle & technology
The elcari build great stone cities known as khat in the mountains. These extend deep into the earth, taking advantage of the year-round moderate temperature of underground dwellings. They are experts in mining, metallurgy, and crafts based on these such as jewelry-making, armor-making, and blacksmithy, as well as their development of steam technology, to the envy of their human neighbours. Crafts take a central place in their culture, in particular those involving the noble substances or kunmegg-nquj. Bands of elcari often pass through human territory, providing their know-how and services for a hefty fee.
Quite apart from their metallurgical prowess, they also pioneered domestication and were the first to develop terrestrial agriculture. To this day, they grow their food crops in the valleys and foothills, as well as flax and hemp for textiles. They have kept sheep and goats for millennia, and acquired chickens, cattle, and small sure-footed horses from men. They can be entirely self-sufficient if need be, but freely trade with humans when the latter have desirable trade goods.
An elcar doesn't like to be permanently subordinate to anyone or permanent obligations, except to their family and friends. But also prefers not to act or live alone. Isolation is considered perverse, as well as wanting to accumulate things only for oneself, or to lord it over others. They are egalitarian by nature, and even though elcari have no servants or employees, younger elcari assist older family members. There is a king or tely, but the position is largely ceremonial, except in wartime.
They have no hierarchies or permanent government, but they hold frequent ggêj, khak-wide councils which meet to address problems, hear complaints and establish laws. Any crimes are brought before the council, which dispenses judgment. Though there is no police force, elcari have a very strong sense of community and collective action, so they do not lightly break the law.
In order to complete specialized large-scale projects, they organize in temporary enterprises with elected leaders which are disbanded as soon as they are complete.
They are little interested in abstract, theoretical or intellectual studies and they prefer their arts to be solid— preferably of stone— and have little patience for verbal art or literature. Their chief diversions are games and music, generally accompanied by drinking and gossip.
Their lore usually have practical applications (eg. chemistry, metallurgy, agronomy, architecture, medicine, genealogy or even mathematics and astronomy). Their passion is making art and things, buildings, jewelry, drawings, sculpture, furniture and even clothing. Elcarin aesthetics demands them as beautiful and ornate as possible.
Elkarîl, the language of the elcari, is extremely conservative and differs little from how it was spoken 15,000 years ago; the elcari believe their language to be a gift from Khemthu-Nôr, and far be it from mere mortals to tamper with it. This cannot be said for the múrtani to the west, who speak a related, much-altered, and (to the elcari) highly debased language called Nmuroikhu.
The language of the Arcél elcari is not related to Elkarîl and is almost entirely unknown, as the elcari refuse to share it.
Elcari worship one God who is called Khemthu-Nôr or 'First Spirit', and (not without reason) consider the gods of the polytheistic múrtani to be demons. Eleďi consider elcari to be unfallen, and Khemthu-Nôr to be Eleď, but some have problems with the non-trinitarian aspect of elcarin belief. Jippirasutum have a similar opinion about Khemthu-Nôr being Jippir.
As the elcari are not into abstract studies, they have no public worship and little theology.
Relations to other species
Elcari are primarily known as builders, miners and craftsmen in human lands. To their mind, elcari are stubborn and stolid, practical and pedantic, though they are loyal friends and jolly drunks. Elcari think of humans as violent, fickle and short-lived, though they'll gladly trade with them. Indeed, the Elkarîl word for them is dduch, 'sellers'. Large-scale conflict between them is virtually unheard of, except in the case of emperor Khrairam of Uytai, who sought to take the elcarin secrets of metallurgy from them by force in the only human-elcar war.
The elcari respect the ilii or nxilmech for their ancient history, but make fun of them for being devoted to stories and poetry. They are entirely out of sympathy with their interest in nature, which, to the elcari, is only a raw material. By contrast, the underwater home of the ilii is not conductive to materialist lifestyles, and metallurgy is all but impossible there.
Etymology: Cuêzi, Caď., Ver. elcari, Barakhinei ûka, Ismaîn ełşŕ all from Elkarîl elkar ‘the making people’; Ax. gedigumei 'metal men', X. gedzaysú, Ṭeôši gezûžumi; Old Skourene atingetoro 'creators by cutting'; Munkhâshi tênkano 'ice man', Dhekhnami tênkano; Lé łɔ̌r; Uyseʔ ħrinram ‘short-person’.