The Iron Skies
Races of the Skies
The Races of the Skies
This is, by far, going to be one of the shortest chapters of this tome, I can assure you up front. The races of The Skies, while varied and complex, are something that many readers are likely to be familiar with. Many of you have likely met a dwarf or a Trollkin in your daily lifetimes, and Gobbers certainly seem to be found nearly everywhere… so it would almost seem needless for me to go into any amount of detail at all, let alone anything particularly long winded… But still, for the sake of those folk who’ve not traveled extensively, or come from islands where visiting races are more uncommon, I will at least provide the basics so that green sailors can figure out what to expect. After all… it never hurts to do a little research right? Always prepared is a good motto for a good sailor.
Humans are, for whatever reason, the most predominant race living in The Skies, found on nearly every island you will visit to some varying degree. Mankind has been prevalent for as long as legends have been told, with some noteworthy civilizations (such as Plenty or the Khards of Korsk) finding their origins stretching back even beyond the beginnings of recorded history. We are an adaptable lot, hardy and capable of a broad range of careers and thriving in nearly every geography, from the frozen landscapes of The Upper Reaches to the arid, desert wastes of Kingdoms like the Theocracy of Nasr. We are often at the forefront of invention and have certainly pioneered our own fair share of new innovations in the fields of alchemy and mechanika.
Humans come in a wide range of appearances, with great variance in skin pigmentation, height, hair, and eye colors. Most of us seem to lean towards pale or olive skin tones, but there are those who are exceptionally pale and there are other with very dark skin, depending upon where in The Skies they hail from. Hair colors are usually shades of brown, but include black, red, blond, and many of the shades in between. To this end, where other races can see easily clear cut distinctions between one another, and thus band together into all dwarf or all elf communities, humanity is more like to divide along the lines of shared language or nationality—We are, after all, a tribalistic lot, somewhere in the back of our minds—and the types of clothing, armor, and weapons favored by the race of men tends to vary according to either needs of their home climate or their culture specific to their island of origin.
Dwarves are the sturdy, long lived folk who hail from the mountainous islands of the Deep Sky, collectively known as the Kingdom of Rhul. These Rhulfolk, as dwarves are commonly called, are stalwart in body and demeanor, and generally optimistic about overcoming any hardship or obstacle. They readily embrace new ideas like mechanika, steam power, and manufacturing and indeed, according to their own long standing records (records which place their civilization as far older than nearly any other) they are most likely the race that first discovered the means of flight, long before humans, even as silly as that sounds for a race that prefers to live underground. Still, aside from their much touted about triumph over the sky, it’s safe to say that Rhulfolk are relatively slow innovators, though they do possess a superlative skill in adapting and improving upon fields that they take a personal interest in. Most dwarves take considerable pride in their individual areas of expertise after all, whatever that may be. Performing good work is a core value to their culture. This has led to the Rhulfolk’s as craftsmen of the finest crafted goods in all of The Skies, as well as the exceptionally disciplined and professional reputation of their soldiers and mercenaries.
Physically, dwarves are shorter on average than humans, but they make up for this loss by being stout in frame, and demonstrate a fairly similar range in skin tones and hair colors as the humans of The Skies do. They are also exceptionally long lived, some of the oldest dwarves I’ve ever personally met claiming to be near on 200 years old, and their memories are long, events of their pasts often as clear and sharp to them as they day they happened… especially where grudges is concerned. Far as manner of dress goes, they’re a pragmatic lot in nearly all things, and tend to favor clothing, armor, and weapons that emphasize function over ostentation.
Gobbers are an amiable and curious people, often only inclined to violence as a last resort and for this reason the race has always had considerable success integrating into human society. Most just don’t consider these little ones a threat. It allows them to easily fall into roles as merchants and junk peddlers, cutting quick deals with the other races, while their natural curiosity and innovative way of thinking seems to lend itself quite well to the fields of alchemy and engineering.
Gobber society has little in the way of regimentation or hierarchy, with each gobber expected to speak frankly and contribute to the general well-being of his family and closest friends, and for this reason many folk can find them just as endearing as they do off putting. After all, if asked a question by a lady as to whether a dress makes her look fat… well… he’s going to answer truthfully, most likely.
Regardless, Gobbers who work and live together tend to fall into a communal sort of relationship where ownership of items like tools or weaponry becomes meaningless, a behavior that they may also exhibit with friends or colleagues of other races—like say a ship’s crew of which they are a part—much to the vexation of those non-Gobbers around them. They simply do not consider taking another’s belongings in such circumstances theft, especially when they fully intend to return the objects in question, but they do understand that other races have certain… social norms that they themselves do hold to so they always seem ready with some story or excuse to explain why they merely “borrowed” the object in hopes of avoiding punishment.
Still, it’s worth noting that as they are small in stature and extremely nimble, good at climbing and naturally skilled at evading notice, they do make exceptional thieves and this has led to some rather unfortunate stereotypes in certain regions of The Skies. After all, most Gobbers would usually prefer to create things of lasting value by the skill of their hands and noggins, rather than by pilfering. It’s just a sad truth that they are often exploited by other races in form of low-paying jobs, placing many of them into a state of perpetual poverty and driving some to turn either to more criminal activities as an alternative means of survival or to form semi-nomadic lives as Junkers, traveling from town to town salvaging broken and discarded items for repair and resale.
Physically, they tend to stand on average between two and half and three and a half feet tall, making them the most diminutive race in The Skies. They’re quite slender and wiry, hairless, and their skin is generally a mottled green-gray color. This coloration can change drastically however, often based on the mood of the Gobber in question, and some even demonstration a limited ability to control this color shift. In terms of clothing, they tend to be a rather eclectic lot, strapping on any they think might be useful… which tends to create a very patchwork and ragged looking form of attire.
In general, I find that any illuminating discussion of the Elves, as a race, is going to be quite difficult. Hours, I spent, writing and rewriting this particular section in an attempt to make some sense of what very little is known about the race as a whole, but the simple truth is that so very little is actually known that it almost renders the exercise pointless.
What can be said of the elves is that they are truly ancient. Even in the earliest of Rhulic texts, there can be found mention of this race, and if any race in The Skies could conceivably give the Dwarves a run for their money in the arena of who truly gained the gift of flight first, it would be the elves. Sadly though, it’s a theory that will likely never be confirmed, given that the race’s seemingly inborn xenophobia and isolationist mindset, resulting in their refusal to allow any other race access to their private stores of knowledge and history, though personally… I almost feel as though I can’t really blame them…
You see, if you search long enough across The Skies, eventually it seems that you will come upon ancient Elven ruins. It’s almost inevitable in fact. Some are long since buried, hidden away in caves and crevices beneath the ground while others are lost in the overgrowth of ancient forests, but regardless they all speak to one thing: The Elves once had an empire that spanned the skies… One that was, at some point in ages past, nearly completely destroyed. The marks of warfare are still apparent in these ruins… the pock marks of explosions and the vicious gouges of weaponry cut from the walls that still stand. Artifacts, such as they are, are often utterly destroyed, rendering little in the way of useful information, reduced to nothing more than cultural oddities. Something, at some point, had it out for the Elves in a big way, and though we know not what, smart money would at least seem to indicate that the elves were the victors of the conflict… though only barely.
In terms of appearance, Elves are generally around the same height as humans, though perhaps on the average just an inch or two taller, and are generally a good bit more graceful than the average human. They generally seem to have a certain exotic quality about their features, with high cheekbones and almond shaped eyes, and are generally a pale lot with a range of hair colors that generally stays to the lighter shades, though it’s not uncommon to see elves with their hair dyed in exotic shades like greens or blues. Certain sects are also known to wear tattoos as a way to show their allegiances, such as those enlisted in the Elven military orders. Oh! And pointed ears. I almost forgot their elongated ears that taper to graceful points…
Either way, it’s difficult to actually discern the age of an elf from looking at them, generally, given their considerably long life spans, often on the order of two or more centuries, and their general reputation for agelessness due in part to the fact they’re not particularly prone to disease and rarely show the ravages of time, even in their advanced years.
Otherwise, aside from being a particularly quiet, stoic people, elves are generally known for their wisdom and keen minds. Many are considered highly skilled in their fields, even if considered young by their own people, and perhaps because of this… and the apparently ancient span of their society, that most consider Elves to have some of the most advanced technology in all of the The Skies. Few examples of this technology exist outside of the Elven homeland, however, so it’s a similarly difficult topic to speak on but from what I have seen and experienced… I can tell you that it’s like nothing I’ve encountered before. In terms of armor alone, I’ve seen suits that fit their wears perfectly, composed of gracefully rounded, interlocking plates that look as though they were almost grown, rather than formed, and yet seemed by all appearances to be made of alabaster or white marble rather than metal… despite deflect sword blows and bullets alike. Similarly, what few true Elven vessels I’ve ever seen or heard described seem to be made of the same material, with the same graceful, organic appearance… and I’ve even heard rumor that the ships can project magical, protective shields and heal themselves of damage. Likewise, similar stories are told about the Elven equivalent of the ’jack… and some even think it was perhaps these elven constructions that gave other races the ideas for ’jacks in the first place.
Regardless, I will note that on average, any elf you might encounter in your daily life is likely not a part of the elven nation any longer, for one reason or another. Perhaps they left of their own accord, or perhaps they were exiled… perhaps their family has lived outside of the kingdom for generations… Either way, if they dwell on your island, the odds of them actually possessing any of that fabled Elven technology is fairly low… and even if they did, it’s likely so well hidden you’d never find it… Though this is not to say there are not some true members of the kingdom out there… Just noting that a fair number have chosen The Skies at large over their homelands for whatever reason.
Ogrun are fierce looking, formidable creatures who tower above most other races, standing on average between seven and a half and nine feet, and capable of remarkable feats of strength. They are also a tremendously honorable people who have earned a place for themselves amid The Skies, primarily as laborers and peerless mercenaries. While scattered tribes of Ogrun still exist in isolated pockets, most have integrated into the other cultures of The Skies. The largest concentration of Ogrun is found within the Islands of Rhul, where they are counted as full members of the dwarven clans to whom they have sworn fealty. Ogrun loyalty is legendary, and they have a reputation for being among the most dedicated and fierce bodyguards ever known thus it is that they are rightly deemed more trustworthy and more reliable than other sell-swords, thus commanding a premium wage.
Traditional Ogrun culture is rooted in a simple but effective system of feudalism in which young warriors must eventually find themselves a worthy leader to serve. Elder ogrun in turn hope to prove worthy enough to earn the binding oaths of the younger warriors, for whom they carry a certain level of responsibility. The ogrun in the leadership position is a korune—a lord—and there can be multiple layers of servitude within a tribe, with the leader being the one who boasts the largest unbroken chain of followers.
As far as appearance goes, the Ogrun tend to have warm, earthy skin tones and black, wiry hair, with long arms and jutting jaws, their bottom teeth protruding like small tusks. It’s enough to give them quite the brutish, intimidating appearance, a fact which is further reinforced by their general manner of dress, preferring very utilitarian but unadorned clothing, often integrating plates of armor.
Trollkin were once the scourge of The Skies. Raiding from their war-rafts—villages built from groups of tethered together skyships—they ranged across the skies, seeking out the weak and the unprotected. No island was safe from attack and all feared the bellowing battle calls of the Trollkin Fell Callers. Thankfully though, in the decades since the last great war, things have changed and many of the Trollkin tribes have made great effort to live in something resembling peace with the other races.
Persisting largely outside the laws of most of The Skies, Trollkin organize themselves into large, tribal societies called Kriels, based upon their war-raft communities, which are comprised of multiple families they call kith and most Trollkin wear distinctive tartan patterns that denote their connections to their kith and Kriel.
Physically, they’re a large lot, the smallest of them on par with the largest of men and biggest just a head or so shorter than the hefty ogrun. Their thick skin’s hue can range from dark blues to blue green, though those gifted with the talent for the arcane often tend to have much paler skin tones to go along with their slighter builds. They grow colorful quills, rather than hair, and the faces of males tend to show calcified growths that become more pronounced the older a trollkin becomes. Meanwhile, the trollkin’s hands and feet are overly large for their bodies, with only three fingers and three does respectively, and their irises lack for any color at all, leaving them a rather disconcerting stark white with just the black of their pupils for color.
Given their name, it should be no surprise that the Kin are blood relatives of trolls and boast a similar, if reduced, resilience; a trollkin who’s well fed can probably endure wounds that would kill a normal human and feel no worse for wear for it long before any human could ever recover. This vitality also leads to their long lives, usually at least twice as long as a human’s and the growing value of those Trollkin who’ve opted to live in cities as laborers, given their seemingly inexhaustible stamina, even in the face of the heaviest of labors.
Second only to the Elves, the Drakin are probably the race that everyone knows the least about. Some say that the claims representatives of Drakin kind make, about being created by and servants of the Dragons of the sky is entirely exaggerated, and that Drakin are functionally no different than any other known breed of more primal lizard man, but the fact cannot be denied that a fair number of Dragons are known to frequent the skies around this race’s homeland…
Regardless, the reason so little is known of the Drakin and so little can really be said, is similar to the difficulties with written about the elves. The Drakin are a secretive people, preferring to keep to keep to themselves where matters of their society is concerned, and as I will explain in my discussion of Dragon’s Spine, only a small portion of their homeland even open to members of other races.
As for what I can tell you, the Drakin are a rather slight folk, rarely much more than four feet tall and while not as wee as goblins, they’re not as thickly built as dwarves, either. They’re hairless, with scales for skin—about equal in thickness to a good suit of leather armor—that varies greatly in color from whites through deep red and even shining, metallic tones like bronze or gold and, naturally, they have reptilian eyes with slits for pupils, though no forked tongues as you might have expected.
They’re a curious lot, with a fair bit of wanderlust about them, and many of the Drakin you’ll meet out in the open skies are probably on the young side. There’s just no other explaining their need to poke their snouts into everything and their “academic” desire pull levers or push buttons that you tell them not to otherwise… At least their good about learning from their mistakes though.
Other than that, the only thing that really stands out about the race that I’ve personally observed myself is that they all, or at least every last one of them that I’ve met, seem to have some amount of talent towards magic. Even the ones that don’t actually practice any sort of spell casting, and instead focus on martial talents seem to be able to pick up on magical powers in their general vicinity.